MOTHERLODE “SELLS-OUT” WITHIN HOURS!
In this day, and age, with a recession in full-bloom the last few years; as well as the future of professional beach volleyball, in the United States, still in transition; it would be reasonable to have doubts about the future of beach doubles volleyball as a whole. However, in 2010 and 2011, all of the major “grassroots” beach/grass volleyball tournaments grew in participation. As well, more, and more, junior tourneys are popping-up all across the nation.
Nothing can be more emblematic of this continued growth, on the “grassroots” level, than this year’s ‘opening day’ of registration for the enigmatic Annual MotherLode Volleyball Classic, held every Labor Day Weekend for the last 39 years, in Aspen, Colorado.
Despite being held in, arguably, one of the most expensive places to host a beach doubles volleyball tournament (not to mention, one of the most un-likely locations), The MotherLode has grown in the last two years, counting 552 teams, from 34 States of the Union and Canada, attending last year’s ‘Lode. But, even the Event Producers couldn’t help but be “Wowed!” at the reaction to the first day of registration of this year’s 40th ‘Anniversary Event. The MotherLode’s “open” divisions have, always, been an exciting affair; blending both beach professionals and talented amateurs from all over the United States into one of the Country’s leading pro-am Events.
Last year, in the wake of the AVP’s demise, The MotherLode hosted the fledgling pro beach volleyball tour, The NVL, in the first, ever, ‘The NVL at The MotherLode’. The fan reaction was FANtastic; with large crowds at the intimate main championship courts at Koch Lumber Park throughout the three days of the Open competition(s). And, as a result, both parties – The NVL and MotherLode Volleyball Productions – have decided to “do it, again” this year.
The MotherLode’s open divisions (both men’s’ and women’s’ combined) usually have around 96-100 teams participating; with many more on the “waiting-list”. But, the reaction to this year’s registrations was astounding! Even after raising the team fees to match the registration fees of The NVL; and, with the Country still recovering from the past few years of recession; THE “OPEN” DIVISIONS “FILLED” WITHIN 12 HOURS of registration opening on May 1st. Never before has this happened at a major pro-am; or, even, professional Event with “open registration”.
Granted, The NVL holds 16 spots, per division, for special invitation(s) to the top point’s leaders in the USAV’s overall rankings system. And, The MotherLode has agreements with a few other tournaments, providing automatic entry into the 40-48 team bracket; making them, effectively, qualifiers for The ‘Lode. But, the “rush” of entries on the first day of registration was unprecedented.
What makes The ‘Lode (as its participants, in all divisions, affectionately call the tourney) so popular? As far as the “open” divisions go, even with the inclusion of The NVL tour, The MotherLode has always been a “pro-am” event, one that allows amateurs to play with, and against, the pros in a true “open” format with exciting and interesting results. Most professional beach tournaments pit the same teams, and players, against each other every tournament. They all know each other – their tendencies; their strengths and weaknesses. But, at The ‘Lode, not only are there beach professionals; but, also, there are many very talented teams, from all over the Country, who, for one reason or another, don’t compete on the professional circuits with regularity. The fact that “the pros” don’t know these teams as well as their normal competitors makes for some great competition(s) resulting in the, for the fans in the stands, always exciting upsets.
The “open” divisions aside, there are 17 other divisions of play including men’s’ and women’s’ master and seniors competitions as well as co-ed, reverse co-ed, and men’s’ and women’s same sex amateur divisions – all played on portable net systems on every major park in the Aspen area.
However, at The ‘Lode, it’s not all about the competition. It’s also a “season-ending” celebration of the sport with large groups of players, and their entourages, invading the Aspen environs with their own parties and gatherings throughout the five days of the Event. Judging from the results of the first day of registration, this year’s Tourney is well on its way to carry-on the tradition of The MotherLode through its 40th consecutive year of as one ofAmerica’s most popular pro-am Events.