JUNE 1, 2022, HERMITAGE, TN - It’s a funny perspective that Brian Hogg has when it comes to his experiences with C2 Attack volleyball. There is an undeniable fondness to his days as a player, in a manner that recalls how entrepreneurs view their gritty, tough, long days as a start-up business. There was struggle, yes, but there’s beauty in that struggle.
And so it is with Hogg.
“I was on the first boys' team that C2 ever had,” Hogg said. “I was grinding it out on the 18s as a 16-year-old just starting out.”
With that two-year age gap in their competition, playing on a team assembled from all corners of the country, where practice time was minimal and the experience of competing in high-level tournaments was scant, they lost. A lot. Which is an unfamiliar concept to those in the C2 program now.
Now? The 16s team finished the year 56-1, ranked No. 1 in the nation. Every single team in the program finished top 10 in the country.
Now? That initial team of seven outmatched boys has exploded into a bona fide powerhouse of a program with seven boys teams, 33 girls, 370 athletes in total, and a thriving environment in which beach and indoor are taught, and athletes of all sizes and ages are developing into legitimate college prospects.
“I’ve seen this club come from nothing to No. 1 in the nation, getting killed by these teams that we’re now killing,” Hogg said. “I’m grateful to be a part of that inaugural team. It’s definitely special, and I’m excited for what we’re doing in the future.”
Many in the volleyball community, and the beach community in particular, are excited about what C2 is doing in the present. Every year, they’ll send a team to Fuds, the bi-annual four-man tournament in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., one that has recently become a favorite stop for professionals. Ed Ratledge was one of those professionals, and he took note of the undeniable talent from the teenagers donning C2 gear.
Someone, he said, needed to show them some love for what they’re doing.
In a sport that is still so dominated by women, with a booming NCAA system and a trickle-down effect that is more like an avalanche to the grassroots level, C2 is one of the rare clubs providing beach training for boys. It makes sense, of course, that there are few options and avenues for boys to pursue beach.
As Cullum Miller, the boys and beach director for C2 said, “there are two things that don’t make a lot of money and take a lot of effort when you put them together: boys and beach volleyball.”
Yet C2 is doing just that. And it’s doing it exceptionally well.
In the first year that C2 expanded to include a beach component, Miller expected around 20 boys to participate.
Nearly 70 signed up.
Not only was it more than triple what they expected, but it was also more than they could really handle. The facilities in the Nashville area are still lagging behind the natural beaches of California and the massive complexes throughout the state of Louisiana and other beach-centric areas such as Ohio. C2 practices at a local park with two courts, and sometimes those two courts will have 32 kids on each at a time.
They make it work.
“You’ll see four to six balls going at one time on a court,” Miller said. “We do everything we can to maximize the space.”
With close to 70 percent of the beach players hailing from outside of the Tennessee area, either driving or flying in from 11 different states, C2 practices around once per month. They’ll drill for three to four hours in the morning, compete in the afternoon, then compete in an intraprogram competition of some kind the following day. It’s a lot of volleyball in a compact amount of time, yet the benefits are undeniable.
Tracy Stevens and her son, George, currently live in Selma, Alabama, yet are relocating to the Nashville area this summer to be closer to C2.
“C2 has been amazing for his development in the sand and indoors, and has given him such a passion for the game,” Stevens said. “I love that every middle on our boys teams can step in and set the ball beautifully because they have developed every skill due to beach.”
And if you think that might just be the simple praise of a doting parent, think again.
“Finding a boys club option like C2 has been a huge blessing for our family,” said Travis Hudson, the head coach at Western Kentucky University whose son, Drew, competes for C2. “It has been an incredible combination of quality instruction plus a caring environment where our son has grown tremendously as a young man.”
There is still no option for boys to play beach volleyball in college, but there are nationwide competitions nonetheless. You’ll see C2 tanks and t-shirts at AVP America Nationals, at the East Coast Championships, the West Coast Championships – if there’s a sizable competition to be played on the beach, C2 will be there.
“There’s no bench in beach,” Miller said. “A parent gets to see their child play 100 percent of the time. They never come off the court. It’s going to make them a better volleyball player.”
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew