Many claim that sports are in our DNA. Families can be united or divided over team colors. Children grow up wanting to emulate their parents. That’s the case for Carrie Beech, who has lived volleyball for more than 20 years.
The Gulf Coast Classic is a volleyball tournament with a history. It’s been held for a quarter of a century. It was created by Coach Phillip Bryant in 1994 when the area was a part of the USA Volleyball Southern Region. Four years later, the Gulf Coast Region was created and the momentum of the Classic never wavered. The tournament has grown by leaps and bounds, drawing upwards of 120 teams from more than ten USA Volleyball regions. Pleasure Island Storm Volleyball Club continues the tradition as the host club, finding new ways to expand its reach.
Over the course of 26 years, an event inevitably changes and evolves and Beech has been there every step of the way. She played in her first Gulf Coast Classic at the age of 12. Her experience over the years garnered her a full volleyball scholarship to the University of South Alabama where she earned both undergraduate and master’s degrees in education.
After graduation, Beech still found a way to stay connected to her sport, this time by teaching others. She’s now a coach at Baldwin County Volleyball Club (BCVC). Volleyball has been a part of the majority of Beech’s life, you could say it’s in her DNA. There’s a chance that same love of the sport was passed on to her daughter Zoe, who plays for the BCVC.
Beech shares not only volleyball with her daughter, but more specifically the Gulf Coast Classic.
“I remember as a young player playing in the Gulf Coast Classic every year until I went off to play in college,” Beech said. “It’s funny that now almost 20 years later I get to continue to enjoy this great tournament as a coach and a parent with my 10-year-old daughter who plays for BCVC.”
Stories like Beech’s encourage Bryant that he made the right choice creating the Gulf Coast Classic 26 years ago.
“GCC was started so that our local families didn’t have to travel to Birmingham, Atlanta, or Tallahassee to play in a tournament,” Bryant said. “It has been so rewarding to see the Classic grow into a tournament where teams with a five-hour drive or more come back every year to experience the hospitality of our community and have a fun-filled weekend of great volleyball.”
Foley Director of Recreation and Sports Tourism David Thompson said these are the stories that encourage the organization.
“This is how we know we are going in the right direction,” Thompson said. “People come back year after year. They may not remember every score of every game, but they remember their time in Foley. That’s something they’ll want to share with their kids someday.”
The Gulf Coast Classic is not the only event this weekend with a history. The 17th Annual Southern Shootout high school soccer tournament will be held at the Foley Sports Tourism Fields. Continuing to grow annually, the Shootout has become somewhat of a rite of passage for high school teams that have it as a mainstay on their calendar.
This year more than 90 teams are registered from around the state, giving teams who don’t often meet a chance to face off. The tournament marks the first weekend high school teams can start competing, making it the first major event for the season in Alabama.
Thompson said Foley wants to be a part of people’s histories and stories. Partnering with such established events gives the organization the opportunity to help visitors create lasting memories.
The Gulf Coast Classic will play in the Foley Event Center, February 16 – 17, and is expected to break the facility record for largest volleyball event. The public is invited to attend and there is a $5 admission fee.
The Southern Shootout runs concurrently, February 14 – 17, at the Foley Sports Tourism fields and is expected to be the facility’s largest high school soccer tournament. It is also open to the public and will have a gate fee.
For more information on the Gulf Coast Classic or the Southern Shootout, visit our events page.