Pro Volleyball Federation embarks on ‘converting the unconverted’

Pro Volleyball Federation, the new professional women’s indoor volleyball league in the US, endeavors to give elite players and coaches the opportunity to profit from their abilities, cultivate dedicated fan bases throughout the country and thrive in the world beyond the court. With a start date of February 2024, teams will be announced in the coming weeks, and the PVF’s initial roster, consisting of eight to 10 teams, will be shared at the end of February. The first draft of collegiate players will take place next November. The inaugural season will be 16 matches with 14 players on each roster and will take place from February to May in pro arenas across North America, with semifinals and final to cap it off. Prior to announcement, the PVF has already closed two team sales, one to an NBA ownership group who will make their announcement next month, and another to a group in a totally new-to-them industry.

STRONG BACKING: At the helm of this league will be women like PVF CEO Jennifer Spicher, who has over 20 years of experience as a player and coach, and VP/Volleyball Operations Dr. Cecile Reynaud, who spent 26 seasons as head coach at Florida State, served on USA Volleyball’s BOD for 19 years and is a former American Volleyball Coaches Association President. Former Texas A&M volleyball coach Laurie Corbelli and Team USA veteran Jenna Rosenthal will also be involved. Announcements related to corporate partners, media and broadcast alliances, additional league investors and other key partners are to come.

MAJOR LEAGUE MINDSET: PVF co-founder Dave Whinham, President & CEO of The TEAM Management, has “always believed in the action of women’s volleyball as an essential pro sport.” Whinham and fellow co-founder Stephen Evans, Founder & President of The Remedy: A Brand Strategy Agency, have long mulled this project but are now capitalizing on what they believe to be the perfect time to launch. As for accumulating interest in their venture, Whinham said, “Everybody now believes, like we did, that women’s professional volleyball done correctly is the exact right thing at the exact right time.” The PVF’s founding partners include former NFLer Trent Dilfer, former Paychex SVP Bob Sebo and the likes of major league pro sports team owners, brands and sponsor partners, media companies, venues across the US and execs from throughout the sports ecosystem. Whinham: “We are placing a premium on financial viability, quality and fairness. Quality takes time.”

SETTING A PRECEDENT: The PVF is the first professional volleyball league in the US to provide its players with a living wage, starting at $60,000 which is similar to current first-year WNBAers. Players will also be able to gain additional compensation based on achievement and postseason advancement. Evans said the PVF is the “first league ever to have revenue sharing with the players from day one.” Most players will make between $60-100K, not including revenue sharing.

FUTURE-MINDED APPROACH: The PVF also has an “Athlete Incubator,” which Evans said will help the athletes “grow their craft and grow their skills in whatever skill or craft that they want to have after they transition.” Evans: “We know they can’t play volleyball forever so whether they play in our league one year or fifteen years, there’s going to be a time when they have to transition out of volleyball and into ‘the real world.’ … When our players leave our league, we want them to have a company already established or have a career already established. … Whatever they want to be, we’re going to bring in the experts and the people within the markets that they play in who can help them grow those skills and grow those abilities.” Evans: “It’s not what we can do that other volleyball leagues aren’t doing, it’s what we’re doing that no other leagues are doing, period.”

EYES UP: Evans said one of the major differences the PVF brings to the court is “management expertise of teams and leagues.” Evans: “Running events and running leagues and teams are two different things, and we’ve learned how to do both sides of it.” Upon seeing years of effort come to fruition, Evans said, “We’re proud that we’re able to really establish a new horizon for volleyball players that doesn’t exist today.” At this juncture, Whinham said, “Our big job is helping get this league to a point where people do care about it. … It’s not just about gleaning the success that NCAA and Olympic volleyball has attracted, it’s about converting the unconverted. … Some of our biggest challenges are our greatest opportunities.”

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