In the late 1970s, when Doug Beal was named head coach of the first U.S. men’s national volleyball team, he was the driving force for establishing a full-time, year-round training center. The first facilities were in — of all places — Dayton, Ohio. The idea was to gear up for the 1980 Moscow Summer Games.
One of the first training sites was Roosevelt High School. A bunch of the players had day jobs unloading produce for local supermarkets. This was hard, physical work, and then the guys were expected to show up for practice at 7 at night.
One night they showed up at Roosevelt, and practiced for three hours as usual, and went to leave, only to find the building was all locked up. One of the guys had to break out through one of the screened-up windows on the second-story gym, drop down and then break back in through the front door of the high school to let everyone else out.
Times were a little different back then.
Doug Beal is now a candidate for the presidency of the international volleyball federation, which goes by the acronym FIVB. The election is due to take place September in Anaheim, Calif. — the first democratic election in the history of the federation, which has been around since 1947.
Two others are in the race, FIVB announced in a release issued Monday: Dr. Ary Graça, president of the Brazilian Volleyball Federation and the South American Volleyball Confederation, and Chris Schacht, president of the Australian Volleyball Federation.
Currently, there are no — zero — U.S. presidents of international federations on the Olympic program. Don Porter is the president of the softball federation; softball was kicked out of the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games.
Beal has been president of USA Volleyball since 2005. A recurring knock on American candidates for high office in the Olympic movement is that they don’t put in the time and work their way up.
In Beal’s case, that’s laughable. Volleyball in Dayton, Ohio, in the 1970s? For a Games the American men’s squad ultimately didn’t qualify for? And the U.S. Olympic team didn’t even go to?
Here is a guy who has devoted his life to the sport — as a player, coach and executive. Beal served in the 1980s and 1990s on FIVB coaches and organizing commissions; he now serves on the North American confederation, called NORCECA, as a vice-president; it was NORCECA a couple weeks ago that formally submitted his presidential candidacy letter to FIVB’s Lausanne, Switzerland, headquarters.
The FIVB election figures to test what Beal called one of his best attributes, “a sense of inclusiveness and collaboration and a connectiveness” — and measure the U.S. Olympic Committee’s, too. The USOC has, since Chicago’s 2016 bid was sent off in the first round of International Olympic Committee voting in 2009, quietly been in the relationship-building and outreach business.
This particular forum is the FIVB, not the IOC. Even so, the USOC is behind Beal’s candidacy and, as Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive said, “There are so many different constituencies with the Olympic movement. You really need to be plugged in to all the constituencies. And clearly the international federation world is one we’re not plugged into at a level you’d expect from a nation with our sporting background.”
In Beal’s tenure, USA Volleyball has doubled membership to an all-time high; doubled operating revenue and professional staff; set strong fiscal standards; and implemented best-practices governance initiatives.
These are the sorts of things Beal said in a recent interview in his Colorado Springs office that he’d like to implement, if elected, at FIVB.
For most of its existence, the federation was run by Paul Libaud of France (1947-84) and Dr. Ruben Acosta of Mexico (1984-2008). Jizhong Wei of China has been in charge since and made it clear he would not stand for another term.
What FIVB ought to take up, Beal said, is a strategic plan; good governance; and a serious effort to enhance the “direct connection” between the federation itself and each of the some 220 federations, no matter how big or small.
“I think and I very much believe,” he also said, “it is extremely important for the FIVB to have this real election … so that we can have, for the first time a real exchange of ideas — maybe we even call it a debate — about the future of the sport, the direction of the sport the federation.
“… We are very popular at the Olympic Games and we have pockets of popularity around the world. But we have this tremendous opportunity for growth and expansion from the commercial perspective, from the viewership perspective, from the television perspective.
“And we have these Olympics sitting out there four years from now in Rio, where volleyball could easily or could likely be he featured sport of the Games because of its incredible popularity there. We have this great window, this great popularity, available to the FIVB. I would really relish the opportunity to be in a leadership position to help us take advantage of that.”