Austin Junior Volleyball: A ‘No-brainer’ For Ashley Ivy Swift
Ashley Ivy Swift had done the professional beach volleyball thing – the world traveling, rarely staying in the same place long, hopping from one airport to the next. A regular salary remained a mythical concept. So it was, not surprisingly, everything that life as a touring beach volleyball player didn’t offer that she sought when she retired in 2011 after six years playing on the AVP Tour, which went bankrupt midway through the 2010 season.
Essentially, her ideal post-playing career presented the antithesis of her playing career: stable job, living in one spot, closer to family. Which made it a “no-brainer” as she calls it, when she was offered a job launching the beach side of Austin Junior Volleyball, a long-established indoors junior program in the city.
When she had initially begun brainstorming for what her next phase of life would look like, Swift hadn’t looked much into the club side of the sport. She figured the college game, with its rapid expansion and booming numbers, would have been the best fit. But the club scene was also ripe to take off, especially with the trickle-down effect the college game would inevitably produce. When the offer came in for her to run AJV Sand, however she wanted to run it, in a location that was closer to her family, in her home state, the decision was made easy.
“I was pretty much allowed to do whatever I wanted,” Swift said. “That made it easier because you had the freedom to try new things.”
Not that it’s ever easy to launch a club and find immediate success. In her first year, Swift oversaw 20 girls. Her goal for 2012 was to have 50, a number she grossly underestimated.
By year two, she had 80, a 400 percent increase.
“I was like ‘Man, how are we going to do this?’” she recalled. “It’s finding what works and what doesn’t work, and at the time when we were growing, I was having to rent a city park, and for the kids down south, I’d have to rent a park down south, and this was all through the city.”
Swift hustled, finding creative ways to ensure all of her athletes received the right amount of reps with little to no downtime on the court.
“I will say I did not see my fiancé at the time, now my husband, all that much,” she said, laughing. “I worked every night and every weekend. It was a lot. I wanted these kids not just to get an hour and a half of training, I wanted two hours.”
That dedication paid off in the form of more numbers. The club that grew from 20 to 80 in a year subsequently close to doubled in the next, to 150. This past season, AJV Sand had 250 athletes.
“It’s quite a production to put on to make sure everyone’s getting the correct amount of touches and moving the whole time and making sure it’s a viable option for them to train as opposed to being just another kid on the court,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Swift has hired a fleet of coaches, making sure that any court with eight or more kids on it will have multiple coaches, both for the sheer amount of touches – serves can then come from both sides of the court – and for the extra feedback.
“That’s important to me,” she said. “I don’t want it to just be kids on a court. I want it to be quick, rapid movements with everything. So, I have to train the coaches. I know I can’t do it by myself and I have really good coaches that I trust.”
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