Cynopsis Sports Q&A with USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis

Our Q&A today is with Jamie Davis, CEO of USA Volleyball, who – a year after taking on the role – has reworked the structure of the NGB, locked in the org’s biggest partnership ever courtesy of a new deal with adidas, and is now plotting the future of its media strategy. Recent weeks also saw the launch of the USA National Beach Rankings, described as the premiere domestic platform for all beach volleyball results with an eye to provide for the most accurate seeding of competitions and serve as the best platform to identify talent at all levels across the country. Cynopsis asked Davis about the opportunities for the sport, protecting athletes following the USA Gymnastics scandal and what we can expect moving forward.

Davis on taking the job: I was approached by a headhunter and when I was first approached, I wasn’t looking for a job and was enjoying running my own consulting business. When they brought up USA Volleyball, I started looking into the sport and got really excited by the opportunity. I didn’t realize that volleyball was the top girls team participatory sport in high school. More girls play volleyball than play any other team. That holds true at the NCAA level as well. Then I looked a beach volleyball, which is the fastest growing sport in the history of the NCAA. When you look at the boy’s side, it is the second-fastest growing high school sport for boys. So as a guy who has been in sports for his entire career, I realized that I had no idea of the scale of this sport. So a light bulb went off, and I realized what an unbelievable opportunity this is to be able to work with a sport with so much momentum and come in from an outsider’s perspective with fresh eyes and bring my experience to it.

On goals: My immediate goals when I first got here was first to digest. I didn’t want to make changes on day one. When I looked at USA Volleyball, I saw huge potential but I also saw that it was a very siloed organization. We were divided by three separate core operations who were sitting there trying to mirror each other. So we were trying to build each of these up, as they are all of equal priority to me. So one of the first things I did here was to break down those silos so we could become a more efficient organization and instead of being broken down by discipline, it would be organized by function. So the people in events, for example, now all work together for indoor, sitting and beach.

The second thing I realized was that our brand was misunderstood and not that well known. People heard of USA Volleyball but didn’t know what we stood for or what made us unique. So we came up with a brand positioning which we call Path to the Podium. USA Volleyball is the only organization in this sport which works at the grassroots levels up to the level of the national teams where we have the Olympics and Paralympians competing. You are on that path from the day you join as a member.

On exposure: When you look at the hours of volleyball programming that are now on the networks, it is getting a lot more exposure. We are working to extend that but I’m looking at not just at traditional media but – when you look at the demographics of our membership – I am looking at the digital space as well and mobile first, to be perfectly honest. So as we talk with broadcasters and others about carriage and exposure of our sport, one thing that is very important to me is what they can deliver in the digital space. I go to these events and I see a lot of heads down so if that’s where they are looking, that is where we have to be.

On protecting athletes: We are 100% dedicated to SafeSport, and we were one of the earliest adopters in putting in safeguards to ensure that we are doing as much as we can. We certainly do background screenings, we require all of our members who deal with junior athletes to be SafeSport certified, which means that that cannot participate if they are not certified. I would not be in this role if this role did not take our athletes safety seriously.

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