AVP Player Contract Requires Exclusivity, Four-Year Commitment

In 2013, the United States' two major professional beach volleyball tours, the Association of Volleyball Professionals and the National Volleyball League, butted heads over player contracts that prevented athletes from playing in both organizations' events. Four years later, player contracts are on every beach volleyball player's and fan's mind again, as the AVP has required players to sign a four-year exclusivity contract in order to compete on the 2017 tour.

The first sign of trouble emerged when Kerri Walsh Jennings sued the AVP for monies owed, and in an interview with VolleyballMag.com the five-time Olympian also brought up that she was still negotiating her player contract with the AVP, saying, "As of now, the contract is un-signable."

Last week, only eight days before the start of the Huntington Beach Open, the first AVP tournament of the year, many of the tour's top athletes did not appear on BVB Info's list of registered players.

However, now, with the tournament beginning on Thursday, all but a handful of the top athletes have signed the contract and been added to the registration list. Those who refused to sign include Walsh Jennings and her husband, Casey Jennings, Summer Ross and Brooke Sweat, and Bill Kolinske.

Explaining his choice not to sign the contract, Kolinske, who finished third at the 2016 AVP NYC Open with Avery Drost, said, "I didn't think the contract was fair to the players, and it's hard because I love playing the AVP events. The main thing in the contract was the exclusivity of only being able to play [AVP events] and the length of the contract."

Ross and Sweat declined to comment on their choice not to sign.

The four-year contract forbids AVP main draw players from competing in other events, except with permission from the tour.

"I just feel like for 90 percent of the players that can't play internationally, they should be able to go play an NVL event where they can at least attempt to make a living," Kolinske said. "I'm not expecting to be rich from playing beach volleyball, but most players on tour lose money after all is said and done. Top to bottom, the prize money on the table is so limited that it makes it practically unsustainable to play on tour unless you have a 'real' job to fund the lifestyle."

According to BVB Info, Kolinske made $10,700 on the AVP tour in 2016.

"I just feel like it doesn't have to be like this, and players deserve the right to have as many opportunities as possible," Kolinske said. "In the last four years, I've loved playing the AVP, but realistically, it's only 20 days out of the year we're playing on the AVP and we're under contract for all 365. The AVP was very good about dispensation for any other tournaments we wanted to go to, except the NVL. Now the problem is, the NVL is one of the only other ones where you could actually go win a tournament and maybe split $8,000."

Kolinske said the players tried to negotiate more favorable terms, but the timing was bad. An announcement had just come out revealing that the NVL and World Series of Beach Volleyball had teamed up to provide more prize money for the NVL tour this year.

"[The AVP] told us we had to sign by Thursday night (April 27); otherwise, the tour will be shutting down," Kolinske said. "I think that scared a lot of the players, but I think we had a little more strength if we would have stuck together."

Some players have taken to social media to express their support for the AVP. On Wednesday, Casey Patterson and Ty Loomis posted a photo of eight beach volleyball players at the AVP offices with almost identical captions.

[instagram url="https://www.instagram.com/p/BTUSvZClIaq/?taken-by=caseypatt" hide_caption="0"]

[instagram url="https://www.instagram.com/p/BTUWKvFF3_I/?taken-by=tyroneloomis" hide_caption="0"]

Despite his choice to refuse to sign the contract and not to play on the AVP tour this year, Kolinske said he supports his fellow pros who did sign.

"Every player has a different situation with their decision and I respect that. I just hope that everything works out for all the players. They work extremely hard and deserve it."

The AVP Huntington Beach Open kicks off on Thursday, May 4, with the qualifier, and the main draw action begins Friday, May 5.

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