MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Volleyball teams from across the country are in Minneapolis this weekend.
Lakeville’s Northern Lights is the host team, and the tournament is being held at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
A volleyball association organizes the massive event and registers teams to participate in the tournament that takes over the whole city.
“This is the first of two weekends,” Tournament Director Curt Glassmann said. “We have about 724 teams over both weekends. This weekend there’s about 348 teams, I believe. That’s about 3,500 kids.”
Next weekend, the city will host even more: 376 teams with around 3,800 players.
The scale and complexity of the event can be confounding and frustrating to those involved, but iPads are stationed throughout the building to help spectators and teams navigate.
This weekend hosts the younger end of the tournament, so kids between the ages of 10 and 15 get a glimpse at a big stage.
“There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that goes into this,” Northern Lights Coach Vicki Swenson said. “It’s amazing for the girls to get here and play.”
Swenson also coaches a team of 10-year-olds, the first in the tournament’s history.
“They’re in awe,” she said. “They get to watch the older girls play, so it’s pretty inspiring.”
Northern Lights has a total 33 teams participating in the tournament. Camryn Strong played with one of them against a team from Kansas, and learned a lot about the level of competition in an event of this scale.
“We’ve learned that each person as an individual has to bring something else to the team,” Strong said. “But as a team, you’re a family over the season and you continue to grow. And as you continue to grow, you can see that you’ve improved as each tournament goes on.”
The training staff themselves at an event this size are worth watching. Trainer Todd Keasling has seen the whole gamut of injuries.
“A lot of overuse injuries, bruises, that type of thing,” Keasling said. “Overuse shoulder injuries, tendonitis, things that the kids have been nursing.”
Organizers say the event’s not only a boom to the volleyball community, but a boom to the local economy as well.
“Minneapolis is a great place to host it,” Glassman said. “We’ve got the skyway system, where all the teams can stay in the downtown hotels, and if it’s raining or cold or something, they can just walk right here.”
The hotel usage in the city is a wonder, too — an estimated 10,000 nights are booked in downtown hotels this weekend.