AVP America Grand Prix, the Christmas bonus of beach volleyball
U.S.A. - Feb 28, 2022 - Wayne Gant and AVP America are not the ones who invented the grand prix style reward system in beach volleyball. It's a concept old enough, and something that had already been widely adopted by the time Gant got involved in the sport, that he honestly has no idea who came up with it.
"That started pre AVP America, pre Volley America, said Gant, who is the Executive Director at AVP America. The concept was started before me honestly."
While the original source of the system may forever remain unknown, what can be stated with certainty is this: AVP Americas Grand Prix is the only organization using such a system on a nationwide scale, rewarding amateur and up and coming professional beach volleyball players both for the quantity and quality of their play throughout the entirety of a season.
"It's cool to have that reward for the whole season," AVP professional beach volleyball player, Logan Webber, said. "It makes it feel like it's a season-long thing rather than individual tournaments by themselves."
In every professional point system, used by organizations from Volleyball World to the AVP to continental tours such as NORCECA and CEV, players' points are based on a type of average finish. The Volleyball World rankings, for example, are based on the player's best three out of his or her four most recent finishes. The AVP uses the best four of six. This isn't so with the Grand Prix. Players simply continue to accrue points, in every event they play throughout the season. Win an event and you're rewarded with 40 points. Take second, add 25 to your total. Third, 15. Down the list it goes. The more events you play, the more points you accrue; the more points you accrue, the higher you climb up the Grand Prix standings; the higher you climb, the bigger your reward at the end of the season.
More than $100,000 in cash and merchandise is sent annually to players in the top finishers of their respective divisions open, AA, A, B and zones.
"When they're behind a couple spaces they need to play an extra event because its a point system, it's not an average," Gant said. "This isn't a rewards program for the best players or the ones who play the most, its the ones who play the most often and do well. It's not saying 'You're the best.' It's treating our loyal customers and rewarding those who do well."
And it's rewarding those who do well in their specific zone. Similar to how Volleyball World is split into five continental tours, AVP America has split the country into five zones West, Central, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast. At the end of the Grand Prix season, the victors can lay claim on bragging rights as the champion of their zone.
"The whole concept is cool," said Webber, who finished first in the Midwest zone during the 2020-2021 Grand Prix, beating out Jeff Samuels by a whopping 1,507 points. "It's a cool way to define who was the best in that area or who had the best season in that area, it's a very regimented way to get that number. It could be a special thing for people who just play qualifiers to go and try to win their zone instead of focusing on the two or three events per year they could try and qualify for."
For how widespread and popular the Grand Prix is, it's one of the more unknown aspects of AVP America. "Nobody really knows its a thing," Webber said. Yet on Friday afternoon, hundreds of players were sent emails, informing them that they'd be receiving either checks or gift certificates -- perhaps as a pleasant surprise for finishing in the top in the Grand Prix of their zone and division. For some, it's an unexpected reward for playing dozens of tournaments across the country.
Moving forward, it could be the reason a player decides to compete in an extra event here, travel to a tournament there, in an attempt to get back into the top 25.
"It's like doing your job well and at the end of the year you get your Christmas bonus, but it's in January," said Evan Cory, who won the Mountain West zone in 2020-2021, topping Ian Bicko for first. "Although Im phasing out of the system a little bit with bigger events and focusing on the major stops, I feel like the AVP America grass roots system has been pivotal to my success so far. It has allowed me to travel to new places, meet new people, and compete against the best people from every region in the country. "Without this Grand Prix system, I wouldnt know of the top tournaments around and wouldn't have been able to compete against top notch competition from every corner of the country." And he wouldnt have been able to get paid doing it.
~Travis Mewhirter @trammew