Tsunami Volleyball has experienced rapid growth in the Seven Hills region and interest in the club is on the rise.
Tsunami, established in 2000, is well-known and serves north and central Georgia from four locations: North (Brookhaven), South (Forest Park), Central Georgia (Macon) and Rome.
EJ Hunt, director of the Rome-based club, is in the midst of his first year as director of the club.
Hunt said the Rome club has expanded rapidly, from 55 girls and five teams two years ago to 107 girls and nine teams as of today. Tsunami Rome also has a Future Stars Academy consisting of 17 girls ages 10-12.
The Tsunami Rome girls represent 39 different schools across three states. Club dues range from $1,000-$1,650, depending on age group and level of competition.
Hunt said the club is looking to expand further and plans to introduce an 11-year-old team next year.
“For northwest Georgia to be competitive, we have got to get girls started younger,” Hunt said. “I think the reason the growth is happening is one, it’s national ... and we’ve got enough skill set with our coaches and our teachers that we can really push the kids and make it fun for them because they’re learning staff and we’re trying to bring that to Tsunami even more.”
Hunt said in years past, the club featured mainly college coaches from Berry College and Shorter University, but with the club’s rapid expansion, more coaches from diverse backgrounds are joining the program.
Typically, teams play in multiple tournaments per season, competing against some of the best talent from across the southeastern United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a direct impact on sports of all levels, including club sports. Hunt said Tsunami Rome’s shutdown lasted until July, when the club was able to secure gym time for in-person work, but with in-person gatherings came limitations and changing protocols.
“We had to sanitize the balls, we had to sanitize the courts,” Hunt said. “We had COVID tracking, so that if someone was exposed or tested positive, we could track every person that was in the gym. We had to wear masks. We also did temperature checks for every girl that came in the gym.”
As the outside world situation slowly improves, restrictions regarding recreation activities are concurrently being rolled back.
“I wouldn’t say a struggle, it’s just been something we’ve had to take into consideration,” Hunt said. “When these girls come in the gym, they want to be there I think because they’re so lacking with other stuff going on that when they come in the gym, this has been probably the best year we’ve had for attitude and effort in the gym that I’ve seen. They really enjoy being out and doing stuff. It’s been good for them.”
Now, the club operates nearly year-round. Hunt said when the club season ends in late April, Tsunami will have access to open gym starting in May and running through the summer; however, all girls will be welcome to come to open gym, not just club players.
“My goal is to just increase the level of volleyball here in town,” Hunt said. “I just want to see the level of volleyball improve.”
Hunt said he has two boys and, after noticing what sports and a coach’s influence can have on children, he wanted to help others.
“I think kids need to be playing sports,” Hunt said. “I think they need the interaction, the competitiveness. That’s just needed for these young kids.”
This weekend, Tsunami Volleyball is set to compete in the Big South National Qualifier, held in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center.
The tournament draws teams from across the nation and has been played in Atlanta since 2005.