Southaven volleyball

Youngsters practice their volleyball skills at a spring league game hosted by DeSoto Legacy Volleyball.

Southaven will have a new group in charge of running its recreational volleyball program at the Southaven Arena.

The Board of Aldermen chose Memphis Volleyball Academy over the current provider, DeSoto Legacy Volleyball, to provide summer training camps and tournaments. 

Memphis Volleyball Academy’s proposal to rent the facility came in at $12,500 per month compared to DeSoto Legacy Volleyball which offered $5,500 a month. DeSoto Legacy Volleyball has been in charge of the program since its inception in 2018.

In-Sik Hwang, owner and director of Memphis Volleyball Academy, told the board that his organization has a demonstrated success rate over the last ten years that is unmatched in the region and can bring in teams to participate in tournaments from all over the United States, and not just the Delta region.

“We operate at a different level,” Hwang said. “We go play teams nationally. We go play in Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky, Florida. We reached out to several clubs  - some of those clubs are in Louisiana, several clubs out of the Gulf Coast area, a club from Alabama, and teams in Nashville. And by doing so, we are more attractive because we do have the talent that other clubs want to come in and play.”

Hwang said several of their teams are ranked nationally and are coached by a lineup whose resumes are unmatched.

“We have nine current or past college coaches and we have nine high school coaches who have won multiple state championships,” Hwang said. “We have seven middle school coaches that have won titles.”

Bill Brewer, a representative of DeSoto Legacy Volleyball, said they also have an experienced coaching staff who are involved in the community.

“Our high school coach from Center Hill has won a state championship in the last couple of years,” Brewer said. “John Tague is an assistant coach over at DeSoto Central. They just won a state championship. One of our other owners is a coach at Lewisburg. And we have another coach who has coached at Hernando. So we fully represent DeSoto Legacy and are behind our name.”

Brewer also singled out the success of owner John Tague, who runs a $20 million business.

“John is awesome with what he has done over there,” Brewer said. “I just feel like as a city I would want to have my confidence behind someone who has done something like that.”

Tague said the program has been very successful despite having to work around a major renovation and then the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I don’t think this is about concessions or who coaches volleyball better,” Tague said. “I think it is about who is going to run this program and have the most revenue. The numbers we submitted as far as revenue that we achieved are only going to go up in the future.”

Tague said DeSoto Legacy Volleyball holds the right to all USA Volleyball sanctioned tournaments in the Delta region which includes Arkansas and parts of north Mississippi and west Tennessee, and have investigated expanding those to include Athletes Unlimited (AU) and Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) teams. He said they put on 34 tournaments and had 165 children sign up for the recreation league.

“Our brand of tournaments take up almost 80 percent of available weekends in the area,” Tague said. “Our established brand of tournaments is already in place.”

Ward 2 Alderman Charlie Hoots asked both organizations if they would be open to having an indoor walking trail inside the area for residents to use.

Although both organizations indicated they were receptive, Mayor Darren Musselwhite told Hoots that the decision would be up to the city, and not the volleyball groups because they own the facility.

“Regardless of who we go with, that’s irrelevant,” Musselwhite said. “The city will make the decision on how to use the facility.” 

Ward 4 Alderman Joel Gallagher pointed out that the city already has a walking trail.

“We do have a walking trail,” Gallagher said. “We have got one at Snowden.”

Musselwhite accused Hoots of making it an East Side vs. West side issue.

“The trail at Snowden isn’t good enough. So he’s turning this into an issue again,” Musselwhite said. “Even though that notion of the East End versus the West End is 100 percent false. Go ahead and just admit it.”

Musselwhite said he is in favor of studying the issue some more to see if they can make a trail work, but added that it would cost the city more money to keep the building open longer, and they would have to move the volleyball courts to accommodate a walking trail there which would open the city up to additional liability.

“If we do what you are talking about, that’s like a gym,” Musselwhite said. “You are talking about opening it up 24-7 or a certain number of hours a day, and that’s going to increase the cost to manage the facility as well. It’s an awesome facility for people to walk back and forth and get exercise. But there is not a way to set it up right now where you move the courts to the middle. It makes it less functional for all purposes. It wasn’t designed to be like the Snowden trail.”

The board voted to accept Parks and Recreation Director Wes Brown’s recommendation to award the contract to Memphis Volleyball Association.

Memphis Volleyball Association will now be responsible for booking all tournaments and camps, and running the summer recreational league. The volleyball events held at the arena are a gateway program that offers children and parents an inexpensive introduction to volleyball.

As part of the contract, the city will also receive all revenue from the gate and concession revenue.

Musselwhite thanked Legacy for their work in building up the volleyball program, but noted that cost is a factor in their decision.

“Obviously money is an issue. We are a public organization,” Musselwhite said. “I want to thank you for what you have done. It’s been a good marriage for the city and Legacy. We took a program that was nonexistent years ago and turned it into a program that is something that offers many opportunities for our girls.”

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