Posted On: 07/13/20 4:40 PM

“We kept waiting for this event to be canceled,” said one parent. 

“I haven’t spent any time with my team since they left for spring break in March,” said another coach. 

A phrase that we have heard all too much the past few months.  “Canceled”, “Until Further Notice”, “To Be Determined”, or “The Event Is Now Virtual”.  As July 8-10 inched closer, the event soon became a reality and for these athletes, they could get back on their court, be with their friends, doing what they love, and feeling some sort of normalcy even for a few days. 

However, this event wasn’t completely normal, it was the new normal.  Planning for this event started in April.  Once college camps were getting canceled, we knew at Prep Dig there was an opportunity for us to step in and provide a way for teams to play this summer.  What that would look like was still to be determined, but with a strong relationship with the Community First Champions Center in Appleton, Wisconsin, this venue would provide the space (lots of space) for teams to safely play. 

Prior to the Prep Dig Sizzle, there were plenty of meetings between Prep Dig, the staff at the Champions Center, and feedback from high school coaches.  Before worrying about matchups, discussions on entering the venue, exiting, the number of people who could be in the venue, and other procedures had to be discussed before anything about volleyball entered the conversation. 

With a plan in place, a dress rehearsal with new procedures was held with a season-ending club scrimmage with local clubs on June 20.  Teams, as well as the staff at Prep Dig, and the Champions Center would get a feel for what the new normal would be.  Temperature checks, team areas, spraying the benches, teams staying on the same side throughout the whole match as opposed to switching sides between sets, and giving the post-game wave instead of handshakes was all part of the new procedures. With a successful scrimmage, it was time to move on to planning for the Sizzle.  

How do you fit 42 volleyball teams onto 8 courts for six matches in a matter of two days? (When they can’t overlap any of the wave times)

Three waves with 16 teams each in the first two waves and ten teams in the third wave.  In each wave, teams played back to back to back with a 15-20 minute break between each match at their own team bench off the court while staff members sprayed down the benches on the court, leaving it sanitary for the next team.  Teams were in pools of four where they would only be in contact with those teams during that wave.  Matches were best two out of three, but teams would play the full 50 minutes to get as much volleyball in as they possibly could.  

But what about the number of people in the facility and transitioning between waves? 

How many ways can you enter and exit a building?  After discussing all of the options, quite a few at the Champions Center.  The only people allowed inside the building for each wave were the athletes on the team as well as five team reps (parents and coaches) who received wristbands for that particular wave.  Each person who entered the building was to wear a mask and have their temperature checked.  Everyone in the wave took a different way to exit to avoid crossing paths with the next wave to enter.  The next wave would typically check in 50 minutes prior to their first serve while everyone from the previous wave had exited. 

What about the volleyball? 

There was a buzz in the building, the energy was electric, the enthusiasm was goosebump worthy.  Some of these kids haven’t seen an opponent outside of their club or school since February or March.  The level of volleyball was extremely high despite not having the typical time to prepare as a team.  There was a certain eagerness each team had, the celebrations and cheers were genuine, it was months of buildup to get back on the court.  And the matchups, WOW!  Teams asserting themselves as major contenders heading into the fall where some of these matchups might be future sectional or state tournament games.  

What’s next? 

There’s plenty of anxiety heading into the school year, the season, the unknown, but for a few days last week, these athletes were able to put that aside.  At Prep Dig, we would be happy to be a sounding board for teams and programs in regards to procedures and details we took in planning this event.  Are there steps in this process that can be improved? Absolutely.  We look forward to the opportunity to see more volleyball being played as well as celebrating these athletes competing.