South Florida volleyball clubs cope with quarantine, worry about July 14 return

Like many small businesses, volleyball clubs make money by serving clients. In their case, this means training athletes who compete in tournaments. Their cash flow stopped suddenly when Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) President Roger J. Goudy announced that all practices and sporting events were to stop in mid-March. 

The financial struggles of closing down were felt by all the clubs in the region, but those that rent their facilities, as opposed to own them, took a much harder hit. 

Daniel Rosario, director of Miami Xtreme Volleyball Academy, explained that though his organization is fortunate to have a facility available, paying the rent for that luxury during the quarantine has proven to be a big task.

“We owe over $55,000 in rent currently,” he said. “I’ve applied for government loans but we haven’t been approved. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) wasn’t an option because our coaches work as independent contractors.”

Alan Obrador, club director of 305 Volleyball Club, shared his relief about not renting a facility despite having to remain closed.

“For this pandemic, it’s been a blessing not having one because if you have a facility, you have to pay for it monthly no matter what,” he said. “Obviously we have no money coming in, but there is no money coming out either.”

Though clubs have not been able to interact with players in person, they have found ways to become active on social media platforms. 

Aaron Vargas, director for High Voltage Volleyball Academy, was excited to share that one of his competitive teams had been chosen to participate in the online Lone Star Classic, the virtual version of the largest national qualifying tournament located in Texas that was canceled due to the coronavirus.

“The girls were so excited at the opportunity to participate,” Vargas said. “It not only gave them the chance to create a fun video as a team from the safety of their homes, but they have found ways to share their experiences with thousands of people across the nation.”

Clubs have also used their social media accounts to communicate with their players how to stay in shape. Julie Doan Kurenuma, director of Miami Elite Volleyball Club, explained how she was giving players the option of exercising with coaches and staff for free.

“We offer [our players] six to seven opportunities a week on our social to work out either with one of our coaches or with one of the members of our extended Miami Elite family who might be a trainer or a yoga instructor, but it takes discipline from our players to go out of their way to participate,” she explained.

During the quarantine period, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced that the recruitment process was to undergo a “dead period” extending through July 31 which enforces that no college coaches could have face-to-face contact with athletes. Doan also shed some light on how the recruitment process has been continuing through the pandemic.

“We encourage our players to be proactive in starting communication with college coaches by sending their highlight tapes,” she said. “We’ve also received 10 or 15 phone calls from college coaches during this time asking about players. Recruiting hasn’t stopped.”

Clubs also have mixed feelings about participating in the AAU Tournament, the last and largest volleyball event of the season set to begin on July 14

Danny Salidragas, director of Playeros Volleyball Club, explained that it was not worth risking his players’ health at such a large tournament, especially when he owns a small club compared to others.

“My club will not be participating [in the AAU Tournament],” he said. “I’m actually surprised that we are opening up so early. I don’t plan on getting my girls back in the gym until October or November when we are more sure on the developments of the coronavirus.”

Giuliana La Mendola is currently a junior at FIU majoring in Journalism and minoring in Nutrition. She hopes to combine her passions for writing and fitness to become a free-lance journalist in the health industry.