Winter Bump serves boost to area volleyball, economy

To casual observers, the 2019 Winter Bump volleyball tournament might seem like child’s play. But for local hotels, restaurants and venues, it’s also big business.

Featuring 285 teams from six different states (approximately 10,000 visitors including players, families and fans) and an estimated $3 million in direct spending, according to Myrtle Beach sports tourism director Tim Huber, the sold-out Winter Bump provides a serious bump to the local economy in the winter offseason.

The eighth annual event, held Saturday, Sunday and Monday at four locations in Myrtle Beach, keeps getting bigger and better every year, organizers say. But to fully appreciate just how far the Winter Bump has come, you have to rewind to its roots a decade ago.

“A few of us coaches were sitting around talking at a tournament at the Charlotte Convention Center, and that’s the first time I heard it cross someone’s mind,” said Grand Strand Juniors coach Larry Church. “Next thing you know, we’re hosting a tournament. From my perspective, I never expected it to get this big this quick.”

What started as a plan to cut down on travel for the upstart volleyball club has become a massive, must-play tournament for rival clubs in the Southeast region. The field continues to grow each year, so much that a second satellite site in Spartanburg serves as host for the older divisions, bringing the total to nearly 400 teams.

The tournament now occupies the Myrtle Beach Sports Center and the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, with each venue operating eight courts. “Pepper” Geddings and Crabtree recreation centers host four courts apiece, so there are 20 games taking place simultaneously throughout the city over the span of the three-day weekend.

“We were just hoping we could bring in enough good teams to have a great tournament and keep our kids from having to travel to play them,” said Grand Strand Juniors director Alex Sing. “We weren’t really ready so we grew it from the ground up. The first year (GSJ) only had three teams playing in it, and now we have 22 teams.”

Not only are local teams now competing against the best, they’re also beating them. Grand Strand Juniors and Coast United combined to score one championship, three runner-up spots and another finished third in their respective divisions.

Coast United won the 18s Gold title, placed second place in the 14 Open division and took second and third in the 17-18 Open bracket. The GSJ 12s, many of whom were mere toddlers when the club launched 11 years ago, went 14-3 to just miss out on the title.

“Our most impressive team this year is our 12s,” said Sing, who coached North Myrtle Beach High to the 2018 Class 4A state crown. “They are going to be phenomenal.”

“Some of those kids weren’t even born when we started,” agreed Church, who coached Myrtle Beach High to the 2017 state title. “You will hear about them in years to come.”

Just like the Winter Bump, the future looks bright for area volleyball.

Photos By Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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