Athletes Unlimited takes unique approach launching women’s pro volleyball in America
By Lee Feinswog -April 29, 2020
There is going to be another attempt at women’s professional volleyball in America, but this one hoping to launch in February 2021 will be different.
As it was explained Wednesday by one of the founders, Jon Patricof of his company Athletes Unlimited, the league will last six weeks and be conducted entirely in one — yet to be named — city.
And there won’t be set teams.
Rather, each of the six weeks there will be four captains who will pick their teams for that week’s round of three matches. By season’s end, Patricof said, the biggest winners could make as much as $50,000 with all players who complete the six weeks guaranteed $10,000.
Each week players will earn points and will be ranked 1-48. The second week, the top four players will be captains, and so on through the season.
The last pro volleyball for women in America was the United States Professional Volleyball (USPV) that ended in 2003.
Athletes Unlimited Volleyball has no TV contract, but Patricof said one is in the works.
“Our media model has a lot of objectives,” said Petricof, who was president of the MLS’s New York City FC. “This is a league that is very focused on our media and content strategy. We are absolutely exploring and have plans for both broadcast and digital distribution in both the United States and global.
“A huge here effort is to create a product that is visible that can be consumed and be engaged with our fans around the world.”
The other Athletes Unlimited co-founder is Jonathan Soros, who has his own private investment firm. Patricof has a masters of business administration from Harvard, while Soros has his law degree from Harvard.
Patricof spoke on a call that also included USA Olympian Foluke Akinradewo, one of three players who have agreed to play. The others are another Olympian, Jordan Larson, and Molly McCage. Akinradewo said she will also play professionally in Japan again next season and “I’m so excited to sign with this,” Akinradewo said.
Patricof said all the Athletes Unlimited Volleyball players are free to play in other leagues, although they will be expected to stay in the city where the competition will be held the entire time. He said the Athletes Unlimited will provide housing through apartments and hotels also feed the players and have a practice facility.
Patricof said there will be coaches, including a director of coaching. Among those he is consulting, he said, is USA Olympic coach Karch Kiraly.
“Giving our outstanding volleyball athletes an opportunity to play an indoor season in the United States will be a game-changer for our sport and our fans,” USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis said in a news release.
Volleyball is not Athletes Unlimited’s only venture. It is also starting a women’s pro softball league in Chicago in August where it is using the same model. There are also no team owners. Patricof said the company is considering a third sport.
Click here to see the Athletes Unlimited website.