Andrea Kneser couldn’t hold back tears when she found out how much one of her mentors valued her. She was with her Bradenton Christian beach volleyball team at the Sunshine State Athletic Conference championships when Stuart Weiss, the SSAC president, pulled her aside.
“Did you know Jim Hoffman was stepping down?” she remembers him asking. Hoffman had been the conference’s beach volleyball commissioner and started coaching Kneser when she was 11.
“He couldn’t think of anybody else to pass the torch on to besides you,” Weiss continued. “Would you take this on?”
A little more than a week later, Kneser had a new set of responsibilities. The SSAC board had convened and agreed with Hoffman, naming the Panthers’ head coach the conference’s new beach volleyball commissioner.
Even though her new job came together quickly, Kneser already has lofty visions for the 2018 season. She wants to double or triple the number of teams from this spring, turning 23 into, potentially, more than 60. After having two public school teams in the conference this year, she sees huge growth potential in that market.
“We’re talking about marketing, the communication plan, what we’re going to do to get the word out there,” Kneser said. “We’re definitely expanding on the public-school front.”
The most substantial endeavor is setting up a potential national championship with Arizona, the only other state with a substantial high school beach volleyball league.
While there’s no exact plan in place, Kneser said Mizuno is involved and the potential championship game would be played in conjunction with the 2018 NCAA championships in Gulf Shores, Ala. The game would likely either pit both state champions against each other or feature all-star teams of the top pairs from each state.
Kneser plans to remain Bradenton Christian’s head coach for 2018 — many of the SSAC’s other officials are coaches or athletic directors at member schools — although she knows where her most important job lies.
“I know my main priority will be growing the sport,” Kneser said, “because I love this sport.”