The beach is coming to TCU.
The TCU athletic department announced Thursday that it will add women’s sand volleyball for spring 2015.
The decision came from the need to offer more women’s sports to remain compliant with Title IX regulations. TCU’s campus population is more than 60 percent female.
“We knew we were going to have to add a female sport, and then volleyball is an emerging sport,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said. “In order to maintain a competitive program in volleyball, we felt sand volleyball was a natural.”
It also plays a prominent role in recruiting for TCU’s indoor volleyball program.
“The main reason is it is something that interests most players now,” TCU volleyball coach Prentice Lewis said. “They like to play both, and they are interested in having that opportunity. It will help with our recruiting. It is a great opportunity for athletes to still be playing volleyball but in a different atmosphere, and it’s a little more enjoyable.”
Lewis will be the head coach of the sand volleyball program as well, and she said an assistant coach will be hired specifically for that program.
During the first season of play, TCU will use players from the indoor team to fill the roster and then will have six scholarships to offer for seasons following.
Recruiting will work in conjunction with the indoor program. Schools that have both programs are given an additional 20 evaluation days added to the 80 allotted for indoor evaluation that are to be used specifically to watch players playing on sand courts.
Lewis said recruitment is not limited to coastal high schools, where competitive sand volleyball traditionally has been popular. Most junior club teams in Texas offer sand volleyball, too.
The TCU sand volleyball team will play its home matches on the courts outside the University Recreation Center, but plans are in the works to build a facility specifically for the program, Lewis said.
The sand volleyball season, in only its second year as an NCAA sport, runs from March to the first weekend in May, when the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship is held.
Seasons consist of no more than 16 matches. Each program provides five two-person doubles teams in a dual format to gain points in matches for an overall team score.
Entering the 2014 season, 46 schools offer varsity sand volleyball programs, according to the AVCA.
Over the past four years, Lewis said she has taken her team onto the sand courts to add a fun change of pace to traditional training, which will help prepare those making the crossover for competition.
As more schools create programs, Lewis said indoor and sand volleyball will become more exclusive, Lewis said.
TCU and Lewis hope the sand volleyball program will bring the excitement of the latest Summer Olympics, which Lewis said helped the sport’s popularity grow even more.
“It’s a great, great sport and it becomes very enjoyable after the last Olympics,” Lewis said. “Having Kerri [Walsh Jennings] and Misty [May-Treanor] win again brought a lot more awareness to the sport. It’s a really exciting time for TCU volleyball, and we’re really excited we get to be a part of this.”