With the start of the 2017 beach volleyball season beginning today, the sport that has only seen six competitive seasons is surpassing all expectations.
The AVCA notes that over 1,000 women are participating at 64 Division I, II and III institutions, with around 50 percent of those participants playing exclusively beach volleyball. Many teams with beach volleyball are integrating their indoor teams with their sand players, such as indoor national champions Stanford, who are bringing over a large number of indoor players to compete on the beach.
The first year that competition took place on the collegiate level was 2012, when 15 Division I schools had a program. In 2013, 14 more colleges added programs followed by 10 more in 2014. The increasing number of schools adding beach programs sparked a transition to NCAA Championship status. In 2015, funding was approved and the following year, 2016, the NCAA hosted their first National Collegiate Beach Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The 2017 championships return to Gulf Shores from May 5-7.
The 2017 season begins March 3 with 64 schools in participation, 53 Division I, eight Division II and three Division III. The average size of the college beach roster is 15.7 student-athletes.
Beach volleyball is the most rapidly-growing sport in NCAA history.