LOWELL, Mich. — Beach volleyball is one of the fastest growing sports anywhere in the United States and now, that is also the case here in West Michigan.
A big reason for the growing popularity among local youth is the new TAG Beach Volleyball club in Lowell.
"Last summer, we started it amongst COVID just trying to get some kids out and active," said founder, Bill Genovich.
Genovich played on the Pro Beach Tour and has taken his passion for the sport to West Michigan, where it has grown from a backyard training program to an eight court facility at Grand River Riverfront Park in Lowell.
"I thought I'd have ten to twenty kids all summer in my backyard, four or five kids at a time and get a few kids out and introduced to beach volleyball. It ended up we had 50 to 60 kids signed up in the first week," he laughed.
Lowell Township partnered with TAG Beach Volleyball to put in the eight court facility that is now home to training for dozens of kids ages seven-and-up.
"We talked to the township supervisor Jerry Hale, we decided we'd put in a few courts here and the more we talked we agreed what a great opportunity for the community to get out and get some recreation," Genovich said.
Now, all summer long, the kids are receiving training on numerous aspects of their games but also having fun together.
"I really like it and I've made a lot of new friends, I didn't know that people from my school did this," said ten-year-old, Madison Joyce, "I've learned a lot and I used to not get one thing over the net, it used to go under but now I can get a lot of things over the net."
12-year-old Taryn Genovich says the growth of the program has been a lot of fun to watch.
"Being out here and watching everyone having fun and working hard, just improving in general is amazing."
Most of the trainees have a goal of becoming a better indoor volleyball player and the sand helps a lot with that.
"I think it's going to help being a lot faster because sand is a ton harder to run in," said 12-year-old player Amelia Paul.
What was originally a big sport in California and other states is now making waves in West Michigan.
"Every weekend there's an event for these kids to play in," Bill Genovich added, "and there's 50 to 100 teams in each event, it's growing tremendously here in West Michigan."
Now some players at the higher levels like 16-year-old Meredith Simmons are thinking about turning it into a future sport in college or beyond.
"A lot of kids don't start playing until they're about my age because they don't hear about it," Simmons added, "but as it grows, I think kids will start playing it younger and it's a sport that you can play longer than indoor."
And Genovich has big goals for getting the sport to grow here in our area.
"We'd love to see high school beach volleyball here in West Michigan," he added.