The story behind the inaugural EVP Island Championship in Mobile County, Alabama, sounds like a joke. A former college volleyball player walks into a bar… you fill in the rest.
In this case, that former standout volleyball player is Susan Shaw, director of events and marketing at Mobile Sports Authority in Alabama. When she went for a drink at Connect Sports in Grapevine, Texas, last August, she met Ross Balling, director of EVP Academies.
“We became fast friends as we had plenty to talk about,” recalls Shaw, noting their mutual interest in volleyball.
The rest, as they say, is history for an island Hurricane Katrina roughed up more than a decade ago. Fortunately, Tropical Storm Cindy spared the region last weekend.
Shaw says the volleyball event was an unqualified success. EVP will return in October to tip off its holiday series. Between volleyball and the homegrown Tri the Gulf race, Dauphin Island, Alabama, may not be a “well-kept secret” for much longer, predicts Shaw.
Making a Mark
The beach area “is an untapped resource for us,” says Shaw. “Dauphin Island is becoming the new sports vacation spot along the Gulf Coast. Two years ago, there was little there for sports tourism outside of fishing.”
Beach volleyball was a natural fit, not only because of the sand but also because of its growing popularity. Shaw attributes Dauphin Island’s boom to the sport remaining accessible to average athletes who play with their families. (For the record, Shaw’s family is filled with well above-average athletes who remain in the sports world.)
The 50-team EVP event is one example of Mobile Sports Authority making strides. Next month in downtown Mobile, Olympians and professional pole vaulters will soar over Dauphin Street in what has become an annual tradition. This fall, the 5th Quarter Classic returns to Ladd-Peebles Stadium, featuring historically black university Jackson State University and Tuskegee University.
Over the past seven years, the authority has generated $106 million to the region through 150 sporting events.