Academy Beach: Tapping Into Northern California Talent From Italy
Didn’t Daniele Desiderio know he was doing it all backwards? That you’re supposed to begin with indoor volleyball and then, because of the interest of a few inspired players, go to beach? That’s what the rest of the United States was doing, anyway.
Turns out, Desiderio, if you couldn’t tell from the last name, is from Italy. Catania, specifically. He knew, when he moved here, he was going to start a club. Didn’t matter if it were indoor or beach. He had played overseas indoors with Matt Fuerbringer, and had seen the work Fuerbringer was doing in Long Beach with his own club. Maybe there was potential to do something similar in Northern California.
So when Desiderio’s playing days were over, he and his wife and son moved to Northern California to start Academy Beach.
“I always liked what [Fuerbringer] was doing,” Desiderio said. “So I went to Northern California to see how it was and decided, ‘Hey let’s see if we can make it here.’”
It was just a matter of timing that Desiderio began on the beach rather than in the gym, as so many other clubs and programs had been doing. When he received his green card it was around May, and May happens to be the onset of beach season for clubs.
Beach it was.
Seven players formed the initial nucleus of Academy Beach players. Desiderio knew he wanted to take it indoors as well, for it to be a nearly year-round venture, but his players asked if there could be an indoor season, too. So after beach season was over, Academy Beach also became an indoor club, which then supplemented the beach, as the indoor players wanted the extra reps in the sand following indoor season. In five years, it became the biggest club in the Bay Area.
“It’s getting big. It’s exciting,” Desiderio said. “We started five years ago with seven kids and no other clubs in the area. Now it’s very popular.”
Popular enough that when Academy hosts tournaments, kids are driving from more than two hours out to compete. And remember: This isn’t Southern California, where such occurrences are commonplace. This is Northern California, where the game is still catching up to its southern counterpart.
“I think that’s amazing,” Desiderio said, “to see that growth.”
It has grown to the point that summers are complete, wonderful chaos for Desiderio and Academy. There was indoor nationals in Dallas, beach RISE nationals in Santa Monica, and a slew of other tournaments around the country and up and down the coast. They came home with a few medals, and now Desiderio is taking a few blessed weeks off, back in Italy.
In his evaluation of Northern California, though, and whether it could take off.
“We just really liked the area,” he said, “and we saw that there was potential and everything went up from there.”
And it’s only going higher.
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