The recent unveiling of the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame Museum on November 18, not only publicized plans for commemorating the sport’s legends, but also unleashed a torrent of controversy surrounding the selection process.
The California Beach Volleyball Association, the eldest beach volleyball tour in the United States, has inducted 68 individuals into its Hall of Fame since 1992.
The voting committee’s long-standing, tried-and-true process of choosing athletes, tour directors, photographers, and historians has seldom spurred any attention – up until this year.
“As recently as a month ago, I could not get anyone in interested (in this voting)”, said Chris Brown, CBVA President and committee member.
How the tide has turned! With the announcement of the four 2011 inductees, and the release of the full list of the past 64 honorees, curiosity, speculation, and second-guessing has swept through a devoted beach volleyball fan base. Questions soon surfaced about the wisdom of choices and the specter of this being merely a popularity contest.
As a result, this published recognition opened-up a Pandora’s Box, of sorts, which Brown is ecstatic about, and is willing to discuss.
“The interest in the Hall of Fame makes me happy. And now people care, and they are debating it (selection process), and that is great for the sport,” said Brown who, along with the Hermosa Beach Historical Society’s Rich Koenig, were instrumental in the planning and orchestration of this Hall of Fame Kickoff Party.
Unlike other Hall of Fame practices in other sports, where the panel and its decision-making process are shielded from the public eye, Brown has willingly disclosed the selection criteria:
1) Top ranked Beach Volleyball players who have maintained a high degree of excellence and superior play over a significant period of time and demonstrated significant CBVA participation.
2) For a player to be considered as a nominee, there must be a five-year interval, after playing at their highest competitive level.
3) Someone who has devoted a major part of their life to the sport of Beach Volleyball and has made positive and meaningful contributions.
4) Annually, the Hall of Fame Committee will develop a slate of nominees and select at least one male and one female, with no more than four being inducted each year.
While the criteria have evolved over the last 20 years, these guidelines have steered the voting committee in selecting athletes, and non-athletes alike.
Each year, the CBVA solicits Hall of Fame nominations from its extensive membership base, and also chooses its own nominees. Then, through selection committee meetings, the candidate pool is whittled-down.
As can be expected, debates about who deserves the Hall of Fame nod can get heated among the handful of current committee members – many of whom have been collaborating for several years: George Stepanof (founding member of the CBVA), Jay Saikley (Tournament Director for Manhattan Beach and the Saikley 6-man), Kevin Cleary (first president of the AVP), Randy Stoklos (all-time great player), and Brown.
“We have a good old-fashioned debate. Sometime it is cut and dry, sometimes it is contentious,” said Brown.
As decisions come down to the wire, the voting may stretch across a few rounds, to whittle the selections to just a few. The guidelines allow for some flexibility in choosing athletes who have: “demonstrated significant CBVA participation,” “a five year interval after playing at their highest competitive level,” and/or “made a positive and meaningful contribution.” Further, the panel has necessarily veered from its nominee number yardstick in recent years.
As the Hall of Fame garners greater national and international attention, Brown stated that certain criteria will likely change – at the minimum, to consider athletes who may not have competed in CBVA events.
Brown’s embracing of public opinion, as well as sharing the behind-the-scenes voting criteria and nomination process are to be commended.
“When people start to see the nuances, they will understand.”
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