NACOGDOCHES, Texas — For more than a decade, beach volleyball continues to grow in popularity across the U.S., particularly in Texas.
Stephen F. Austin State University is one of the latest universities to start a beach volleyball team to its list of sports.
"The majority of universities face the same issue when it comes to Title IX with regard to having enough female athletes, especially if you have football," Ladyjacks' volleyball coach Debbie Humphreys said. "It's definitely the sport to add at this point in time."
With the addition of beach volleyball, Humphreys will be the university's Director of Volleyball with authority over both the indoor and outdoor programs.
Heading up the beach volleyball program and recruiting process is Alex Luna.
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Luna has roots in Texas. He coached at several schools in North Texas before spending two years at San Jose State University in California. Luna says his Texas roots gives him a boost in recruiting.
"My roots are here in Texas," Luna explained. "I have relationships built with people, you know, up and down the state."
He said he found his love for the sport while attending John H. Guyer High School and played club volleyball while attending UT Dallas.
"Recruiting is about relationships, and kind of knowing where to look," Luna explained. "Luckily, I've been able to be in a lot of different parts of the country and a lot of places where there are good beach players."
The SFA coaching staff is looking in many different places for players, even pulling from their indoor team.
"We'll have to use a lot more crossover athletes initially," Humphreys said.
Both Humphreys and Luna are recruiting internationally as well as all across Texas. Luna has been traveling to the major cities in the state almost every weekend.
"There's a lot of good players in the state," Luna said.
He explains the community aspect of the sport is one of his favorite things.
"It's outdoors. There's music playing. There's a lot of just food cooking somewhere like it's a community kind of sport," Luna said. "It's cool to kind of merge that with the NCAA and with this university."
As for right now, Luna is ready to finalize his teams and get to work.
"I think SFA has done a really good job here of building the right foundation for what the sport needs on the front end," Luna said. "Now the players have to be recruited and coached well."
SFA has plans for a four-court outdoor complex with spectator seating. They expect to break ground Summer of 2019 and have it completed in time for the inaugural 2020-21 season.