2018 was a monumental year for USA Volleyball in which we continued to showcase why we remain one of the preeminent national governing bodies in the United States and the growth pioneer for our sport. Both on and off the court, it was a year of records, milestones and new initiatives and was marked by our increased cooperative presence with the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) and our sport’s continental confederation, NORCECA.
On the court, Team USA excelled in all disciplines.
Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena finished 2018 second in the team entry world rankings. On the women’s side, new teams of April Ross and Alix Klineman finished the year in sixth place, followed by Summer Ross and Sara Hughes in eighth place. Overall, the U.S. women won 13 medals including four golds in FIVB World Tour 3-5 Star events and the U.S. men had four medals including three golds. With the Olympic qualifying period officially starting on September 1, 2018, USA Volleyball hired our first-ever beach national team director of coaching to help bolster our chances in Tokyo.
2018 saw the launch of the inaugural FIVB Volleyball Nations League tournament where our U.S. Women’s National Team won the gold and our Men’s team captured bronze. The Men’s success continued as they brought home another bronze medal at the FIVB World Championships in Japan.
Our Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team qualified for the 2020 Paralympic Games after earning silver at the 2018 World ParaVolley World Championships. The team ended the year with a remarkable 21-1 overall record. Meanwhile, the Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team had a best ever eighth-place finish at the World Championships.
In addition to the core disciplines of beach, indoor and sitting, 2018 marked the expansion of our sport and organization. USA Volleyball is now among the worldwide leaders in two relatively new volleyball disciplines – snow volleyball and beach ParaVolley – that are seeking to find their way into the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Volleyball is recognized internationally as the National Federation for both disciplines with the long-range vision of seeing more American athletes stand o Olympic and Paralympic podiums. In December, the U.S. sent teams to compete in Moscow for our first-ever FIVB sanctioned snow volleyball tournament and our Women captured the gold. In addition, we created our first Beach ParaVolley team which will have its inaugural competition in May 2019.
USA Volleyball’s achievements were equally impressive off the court. Our membership grew to an all-time high of 375,000 marking the largest growth rate since the 2014/15 membership season. Furthermore, event participation broke records with our championship events collectively hitting record-setting team entries.
USA Volleyball’s brand affinity also continued to flourish in 2018 where we launched our inaugural digital magazine, YOUR COURT. The highly interactive platform is targeted at USA Volleyball’s core junior membership population and is delivered to their mobile phones and computers where this generation lives. USAVolleyball.org and social media platforms continue to drive our message with great success. Our Instagram account ranked third among all national governing bodies in interactions at 5.6 million and our website had 10.4 million page views and 2.3 million unique visitors, an increase of 7.6 percent from 2017.
Most importantly in 2018, however, was the addition of our fifth strategic priority, SAFETY FIRST. USA Volleyball will continue to foster a safe environment in which our members participate and we vow to take necessary actions to address all concerns and claims in a timely manner. We furthermore pledge to take a leadership role to persuade other volleyball organizations not under our purview to do the same in our sport.
I want to thank the staff at USA Volleyball for their tireless work and congratulate them on their achievements. I further want to thank the USA Volleyball Board of Directors for their support and guidance and our athletes who are among the world’s best and wonderful ambassadors for the sport. While 2018 was full of great achievements, I am convinced that the road ahead is even brighter.