When talking about significant contributors to the growth of beach volleyball in the United States, Dave Williams is cemented on that list.
“He loved the sport and was passionate about it and committed to it,” USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said. “Dave had a very unique, large-picture world view of where he thought beach volleyball should go and how it should be managed.”
Beal and the rest of the volleyball community are mourning the loss of Williams, USA Volleyball’s managing director of beach programs, who died in mid-May in Hermosa Beach, Calif., at the age of 55 after a brief battle with cancer.
“Since we released the news, a lot of people have contacted us and that’s a pretty strong indicator of Dave’s position in the sport,” Beal told Volleyball.
Williams, a native of Brilliant, Ohio, joined USA Volleyball in April 2010. He is the only person to have held the position of managing director of beach programs, which was created as part of a USA Volleyball initiative to develop short and long-term growth for beach volleyball.
Prior to coming to USAV, Williams was well-known for his behind-the-scenes management roles with the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP). Williams held several AVP senior-management positions, including director of tour operations, director of marketing development, and most recently vice president of operations. Williams produced more than 150 AVP events. Prior to joining the AVP, Williams was the managing director of the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association from 1997-1998.
“One of the most unique contributions he made to USA Volleyball was the remarkable network he had,” Beal said. “It seemed he could find out any piece of information. People were talking to him all the time. He was constantly on the phone and out meeting people. He always knew the right people.”
Beal was most impressed with how Williams embraced the USA Volleyball beach concept.
“It’s always interesting to see staff develop and evolve,” he said. “At first I wasn’t sure where Dave was relative to his view of the Olympic world and national teams. He was so committed to it and grew to be embedded in the Olympic world and Olympism during his time with USA Volleyball. It was very rewarding to see. He became very sold on the role USA Volleyball should play and the positive elements it could bring to the sport of beach volleyball. We’ve lost a wonderful advocate.”
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings recalled the help Williams provided her when she first started on the AVP tour.
“In my early years on the tour, Dave was a constant source of encouragement, support, and humor,” Walsh Jennings said. “More recently, even though our working relationship was quite contentious, the soft spot in my heart he held from way back when remained, and it always will.”
“It was always a pleasure seeing Dave and talking to him at the AVP events,” Walsh’s partner and fellow three-time Olympic gold-medalist Misty May-Treanor said. “He always did his best to make the athletes happy.”
Fellow Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers remembered Williams for his positive personality.
“Dave had a diverse and storied career in beach volleyball,” Rogers said. “I will miss his wit, engaging smile, and personality. I will always remember Dave as a guy I could enjoy a beer with, have a great conversation with, and leave with my own big smile on my face. I will miss him.”
Olympian and Volleyball Hall of Fame inductee Holly McPeak said Williams was a tireless worker for the sport.
“Dave always had a smile on his face. I never saw him stressed or unhappy,” she said. “Sometimes we forget to thank the people behind the scenes, and he was one of those who didn’t receive enough appreciation for the time and energy he put into our sport. Thank you, Dave. You are loved and missed.”
In addition to his volleyball career, Williams, a founder of the Manhattan Beach Open Dinner of Champions, previously worked as executive VP of sales and marketing for the 3D Shopping division of O2 Essential Marketing Technology, the company that was the exclusive 3D image provider to Yahoo Shopping. He also held executive management positions with Café Au Lait, the bakery corporation Vie De France, Mauna Loa, and Pepsi. Williams was a 1981 graduate of Ohio State and was a life member of Ohio State’s President’s Club.
USA Volleyball held a small memorial for Williams at the USAV beach offices in Hermosa Beach in mid-May, and Beal said a larger memorial service is in the works for later in the summer.
“We are going to have to work hard to fulfill his legacy, vision, passion, and energy,” Beal said. “It’s a sad day for the sport. This is a very significant and large loss for the beach volleyball world.”