Motor MVB: John Speraw

Motor MVB is creating opportunities for males to play volleyball competitively in the Unitied States and North America. The group is lead by John Speraw, Lloy Ball, Paul Tashima, Kelly Goodsel, Wade Garard, and Marin Gjaja. We were lucky to speak to US Men’s National Team Head coach and UCLA Head Coach John Speraw to learn more about this great project.

The United States has had a lot of success internationally including their recent Bronze Medal at the Rio Olympics and the well document success of their 1984, 1988 and 2008 Gold Medal Teams. What makes their success even more impressive is they rely mostly on the small NCAA school system for athlete development. Currently there are less than 45 schools competing in men’s volleyball at the Division 1 and Division 2 levels.

We asked John what Motor MVB’s plan was to increase the number of male athletes playing the sport.

“If you had everything at your disposal in terms of what you need to do to grow a sport, you’d have 2 focuses.  Growing it at the top end, division 1 and 2, how you are increasing the number of scholarships to incentivize the number of athletes playing.

Then you have to have a grassroots effort to spread the exposure of the game to a lot of boys when they are making a decision at 12, 13, 14 for what they are going to do for a sport.  

We call it the top down, bottom up. We are learning what the best strategies are. We’ve realized we need to increase the number of talented boys playing and we need scholarships available at the top.”

Fans of the NCAA have seen the growth and popularity of volleyball into new areas of the United States affect the sport. Traditionally teams from California have dominated the NCAA Title picture but recently Ohio State and Loyala have combined to win the last four championships. 

“Top to bottom the MPSF is still the toughest. The depth of talent has definitely changed.  You see more players are coming out of the Chicago area. Over the last ten years key players have come out of Flordia.  The success of Loyala and Ohio State demonstrates that there is talent good enough to win all over the country.

We’d like to continue to expand in the North East. There lots of boys that play in New York and Pennsivania and not enough opportunities at the D1 and D2 levels to play.

I think there is real opportunity in the Mid West. Because of the talent and success of the teams that are already there. We’d like to grow in the Big 10 and Pac 12, that is the ultimate goal.“

Boys volleyball is on the rise in Canada and the US. If male athletes can see how exciting and powerful the sport is we will continue to grow our sport. Speraw shared Motor MVB’s plan for the next 10 years with us. 

“It’s exciting. If you look at trends in growth of sports. It is one of the fastest growing youth sports in the US over the last few years. 12% more boys are playing. And it gets great ratings at the Olympic games. There are some signs there that there are opportunities.

We ultimately need to do 2 things. We need to raise money and meet people who are interested in growing the men’s game that have the leadership and financial resources to grow the game. It’s about how we can help athletic departments fund and manage their volleyball programs.”

Then we have to figure out a way to encourage clubs and high schools to get boys to play the game. We need more boys to play and more places for them to go get scholarships.

The third pillar of this would be a pro league. If there was a pro league where good Canadians and Americans could stay close to home or at home that would really be great for everyone and grow the sport for everyone in NORCECA. That’s ultimately the short version of what we need to do.“

When you look at the popularity of volleyball it’s fair for some fans to ask why their isn’t already a professional league on the men’s or women’s side in North America. Coach Speraw shared his thoughts on what it takes to run a successful league in North America.

“I think people look at the sports market in North America and see all of the money that is there and think it’s easy to start a league. I think it is really hard to break in because of the media focus on the major sports.  It’s really hard to break into the conversation. Even if you look at the universities that are so impactful on the sport culture in the United States it’s about one thing, football.

When you start looking at the financials and it looks real big and there is all this money in sports and volleyball would only cost “X” number of dollars why isn’t this possible? It’s really hard to get on TV and generate enough television revenue and get it on ESPN, so it becomes a topic of conversation every night.

When you look at MLS they started it when the world cup was in LA in 94. They launched the MLS and it didn’t make any money for 10 years and that is soccer with a focus around the World Cup. Now they are doing fine and they have learned a lot. We can learn a lot from the MLS that we are looking at. You have to find the right people, right markets, and get it on TV.”

“I think for the first time we have a real organized, disciplined, purposeful system for trying to grow the game in North America. I think it’s going to be exciting to see what we can do. It’s going to take time. This is a 10-year project for us. We have to understand that this is a challenge for all of us that love the game. It’s worth the time and investment to see how far we can take our game.“

If you’re interested donating to Motor MVB or learning more about their plans to grow the men’s game please visit their website http://www.motormvb.com/