When I was a young volleyball player, I couldn’t wait for my copies of the latest volleyball magazine’s to arrive in the mail. At the time, we subscribed to two or three of them and I’d spend hours turning page after glossy page taking in all the information my pre-teen brain could handle.
I knew the names of collegiate players, national team players, Olympians, beach players and I even knew who the big wigs at the high school level were and what colleges they were headed to. Gosh, they were so good! I hoped someday I’d be in those magazines too (although I never muttered one single word of those hopes to anyone).
In between all the information and pictures of my idols were the advertisements.
I poured over those pages too.
All the words.
All the pictures.
No page unturned.
The ads without professional athlete representation showed young, pretty volleyball players dressed in generic uniforms – hitting a ball, digging a ball or standing stylishly with a ball on their hip. Pretty, young volleyball players.
Athletes. Just like me.
I used to wonder how they got in those ads.
“I bet she can hit really hard” or “I wonder what team she plays for?”
It never crossed my mind that those girls might be models who didn’t played volleyball like I did.
I recently saw a volleyball ad with a girl I knew.
Donning a red, white and blue uniform, fresh white knee pads, pony tail and natural looking makeup that makes you look like you aren’t wearing any.
While the ad was fine, the young, naïve twelve year-old volleyball player in me felt a bit sad.
Because I knew this particular person hadn’t played the sport I played. I knew she hadn’t had to run lines because somebody on her team was late. She hadn’t heard someone tell her she wasn’t good enough for the team this year. She hadn’t practiced all summer while that team was competing out of state to make sure that didn’t happen again.
I know this girl was doing her job, you don’t need to actually do the thing you are modeling for to model for it, but to so many girls who read those magazines, she represents more than a picture.
She represents us.
I don’t blame her or the magazine for doing their jobs, (um, hello, marketing), but I do think the sponsors and advertisers can do better. The girls in the ads should represent our body types, our diversity – volleyball players are going to have muscles and body shapes that represent the sport we play.
I bet advertisers can find someone out of the hundreds of thousands of girls and boys playing club volleyball around the world who could represent the sport more accurately and also take a great picture.
And maybe they are already doing this, if so…my bad.
I’ve been wrong before.
But how cool would it be if the kids in the ads were actually kids who played the sport?
Not models playing athletes, but athletes playing athletes.
I get the Olympians and the professional athletes are modeling product for their sponsors, this isn’t about that.
It’s about young girls looking at the ads with models and thinking “this girl could be me,” and it’s not.
It’s really, really not.
Volleyball advertisers, take a cue from the Dove soap campaigns and find the actual people wearing your merchandise. The actual kids wanting to play college volleyball. The actual kids stinking up your knee pads and sleeping in gyms on Saturday’s, sweating through your shirts and dreaming of someday wanting to hit so hard they might pop one of your volleyballs.
Then tell us their story.
I know plenty of kids who’d be up for that kind of role modeling gig.