Kathy DeBoer Checks in at JVA World Challenge

Kathy DeBoer being interviewed by Laura Ratto, a former beach player, for Volleyball Network.tv
Lee Feinswog
Kathy DeBoer being interviewed by Laura Ratto, a former beach player, for Volleyball Network.tv

Kathy DeBoer was one busy AVCA director at the JVA World Challenge during the first weekend in April.

A former longtime college coach and administrator, DeBoer, whose organization is involved in the sport in many ways, took a few minutes to visit with Volleyball’s Lee Feinswog during the three-day tournament in Houston’s Reliant Center.

DeBoer, executive director of the AVCA since 2006, was able to visit with quite a few high-profile women’s college coaches during the weekend, but her responsibilities go far beyond the women’s college game.

In Houston, she was involved in a combine that evaluated prep players, all the while watching the massive club tournament that was going on, along with a spring college tournament featuring mostly teams from Texas.

VBM: So, how are things in the AVCA these days?

DeBoer: Just hoppin.’ We’re involved in a lot of different projects and a lot of them are really exciting. Our mission is to develop the sport and our board allows us to reach into a lot of different directions.

This spring we’re working on this college/prep combine program. The shorthand version is we’re trying to build a model for the talent assessment thing that goes beyond a T-shirt by actually building a data set that has lasting value. This way kids and parents can take something away and see where they are physically compared to college players right now. We’re doing four of those around the country. We were in California, we were in Nashville, we’re here in Texas, and we go to Grand Rapids [Michigan] in May.

So that’s going on as we’re in full swing with the men’s [college] season. The men’s national championship is at Loyola in Chicago, and we run a spring conference around that and our numbers are already more than any spring conference that we’ve ever had. We’ll have 250 to 300 coaches there.

VBM: Let’s talk about this tournament, the JVA World Challenge. It’s a unique event, in Louisville last year and now here in Houston, with almost 500 teams and a good opportunity for the AVCA to do quite a bit in person.

DeBoer: When we partnered with the JVA years ago, when they first started [in 2006], we did it because we felt it was important for the juniors community to have an AVCA-like organization. We were already quite established, we already had some of the infrastructure that they didn’t have. So it made sense to partner on the educational part with the volleyball specifically that we were doing. The business side, what the JVA was expert at, was really good learning for us and helped us in being more effective in serving that part of the community. It was a great partnership right from the beginning.

I don’t know how many people know it, but JVA is the only organization that takes all of the resources from the tournament they run and plows it back into junior volleyball. They use the proceeds from this event, their largest event of the year, to run JVA for the year. It doesn’t go into any particular club, doesn’t go into any pocket. It’s money that’s plowed right back into junior volleyball and we thought that fit into our non-profit mission and something we wanted to be part of.

VBM: We’ll get back to the men’s game in a minute, because we’re in season, but let’s look back. It was a really good women’s college volleyball season, finishing with the final four in Seattle, where they did a fantastic job. But how was attendance at the convention all the way up in the Northwest?

DeBoer: OK, I’ll give you the good news and the not-so-great news. We had our third-largest convention that we’ve ever had.

VBM: Really?

DeBoer: Yeah. The year before when we were in Louisville we had the largest convention we ever had. The year before that we were in San Antonio and that was the second-largest. So we were very, very pleased with Seattle. We just thought it was a great success. What affected the numbers – I don’t think it was Seattle at all – but the calendar. We actually flew home on the 23rd of December. That’s pretty hard for families and people who travel over the holidays. That’s a calendar issue and we’re going to have that every so often. But Seattle was great. The environment was dynamite; the matches were unbelievable.

VBM: And now the men’s college season is upon us. An expanded tournament, with fifth and sixth teams added, and your convention. People maybe are incorrect in assuming that this is a ‘men’s’ AVCA conference.

DeBoer: No! We try to make all of our events something that is a big tent, if you will. We look at who’s coming and we try to program to that. [Among the speakers] we have [Springfield College men’s coach] Charlie Sullivan, we’ve got [former men’s and women’s Olympic coach and current Minnesota women’s coach] Hugh McCutcheon, we’ve got [Penn State men’s coach] Mark Pavlik. And also boys’ high school coaches who are going to be presenting. But we also have Cheryl Butler [co-director of Sports Performance Volleyball] there doing some things on movement skills, we’ve got [Louisville women’s coach] Ann Kordes and [Illinois women’s coach] Kevin Hambly presenting, so there’s going to be a lot of material for anybody who’s a volleyball coach.

VBM: So when do you get any time off?

DeBoer: I’m not good at time off. It’s not a skill set I’ve developed. My staff doesn’t like that very much. But we try. After the men’s championships we’ll go out to the juniors championships and in July we start again where we’re partnered with a lot of high school volleyball coaches associations, in Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Missouri. We start going out to all their conferences with them and try to help high school coaches do what they do in a better way.

VBM: You still live in Lexington [Kentucky], right?

DeBoer: Yes.

VBM: So, in keeping with my Volleyball magazine Q&A tradition, what’s your favorite restaurant in Lexington?

DeBoer: Portofino. It’s an Italian restaurant and they just do really good stuff.

VBM: Thanks. See you in Chicago.

Originally published in June 2014

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