As the Junior Girls’ Chair for the Badger Region, I am thrilled to see the growth of our region. I am a charter member of the Badger Region. When I started my first club in Hustisford, we were part of the Great Lakes Region. We had to drive to Illinois for meetings and about 90% of the tournaments available to us were in Illinois. A group of volleyball lovers, players, coaches, officials and club directors decided to explore the option of our own region in Wisconsin. From this group of idealists, the Badger Region was born.
When we started the Badger Region, there were a small number of clubs, maybe 10 or 12. Today there are 140 clubs in our region and about 10,000 players participating throughout the state. The greatest part of growth like this is the options that are now available to grow the sport. There are small clubs, large clubs, clubs for kids who want to just get better, or just play for fun, or for kids who want to try to play in college. There is literally something for everyone!
At the start, EVERY club rented whatever gyms they could find. I remember the day it was announced that the Epicenter (now Center Court) would be built! It was the most exciting news ever for the volleyball lovers in the state! Today, there are clubs running their own facilities, sports facilities to rent and a huge venue in Wisconsin Dells that attracts teams from all over the country.
I am often in awe of where we are compared to where we started. The Badger Region Championships have grown so much that they are now taking three weekends to complete! Our membership grew significantly in the past couple of years, prompting USA Volleyball to award us an extra American bid to the National Championships for each age group in the Region. There are tournaments available to teams in every part of the state on any given weekend. We have multi-day tournaments, we have single day tournaments, we have tournaments for the highest level club teams and we have tournaments for those who are just learning.
The Badger Region Board of Directors has expanded over the years, and through this expansion they created positions dedicated to the development of officials in the region. This foresight has created an incredible amount of growth not only in the number of officials available but also in the quality of these officials. When clubs started hosting tournaments in Wisconsin, coaches did almost all of the officiating. After a few years we progressed to having coaches only officiate pool play and then region officials would officiate the championship rounds. Today, a LARGE percentage of our region tournaments have first officials assigned for the entire day.
The Badger Region has seen growth in other areas as well. In the past three to five, years beach volleyball has become an avenue for kids in Wisconsin to actually get outside and enjoy our (WAY TOO SHORT) summers and still develop their volleyball skills. Our High Performance program has gone from non-existent to a contender at the HP Championships. Most near and dear to my heart is the efforts of so many in this Region to grow our sport at the youngest level. We have clubs running programming for kids as young as 3 and 4 years old! What could possibly be better for our sport?
Benjamin Franklin once said “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” I think the meaning of success is alive and well in our Region! Congratulations! It couldn’t have happened without you. Keep up the good work!