Former Junior National Team coach bringing volleyball academy to Ridgeland
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Young athletes who want up their volleyball games will soon have a new venue to do it in the city of Ridgeland.
After five years in Flowood, Infinity Volleyball Academy is relocating to Ridgeland.
The mayor and board of aldermen approved a conditional use permit and site plans for the new volleyball facility at its September 7 board meeting.
Construction is expected to get underway soon and should wrap up by March, according to co-owner Brian Hazelwood.
Once it’s finished, Infinity will be able to serve more than 200 youth and teen girls who want to improve their games, get noticed by college coaches, and get more volleyball playing time under their belts.
“Think of Infinity like AAU basketball or summer baseball,” Hazelwood said. “You come in, try out for a team and be part of a team that is different from your high school team.”
“You are trying out for these club teams so you can play in tournaments and other events in the Southeast and across the country, with the anticipation of getting better for high school (and getting) looked at for college,” he said.
Infinity will be located on parcels near the intersection of Lake Harbour Drive and Harbour Pointe Crossing, behind Bulldog Burger.
The facility will be owned by Brian and Jenny Hazelwood. Jenny, a former volleyball player herself, is a current network analyst for ESPN and the SEC Network. Prior to that, she coached USA Volleyball, serving as the junior national team assistant, and worked 15 years in the college ranks.
During that time, she held head coaching positions at Mississippi College, Centenary College of Louisiana, Austin Peay State University, and Mississippi State University, where she also lettered in the sport as a student.
“When she got to ESPN, we wanted to come back to the (Jackson metro) area. I started an HVAC company and I did not want to leave what I was doing,” he said. The two currently reside in Madison, only a few minutes from the new academy will be located.
After returning to the area, the couple decided to start Infinity to help tap into what they said was some strong, but underdeveloped local volleyball talent. “There were really good athletes in the area and we just knew they needed to have some direction, some coaching, and some guidance,” Hazelwood said.
With the help of Flowood Alderman Dusty Rhoads and plastic surgeon Steve Davidson, the two opened their first academy in Rankin County.
“They owned a building right off of Flowood Drive, right across from the flea market,” Brian Hazelwood said. “When we looked at it, it was dirt and concrete. We all visioned together how we wanted it to look, and it turned into a really cool facility.”
The effort paid off, with Infinity drawing in about 107 kids in their first year. Since then, the group has seen participation almost double, with 189 girls playing on Infinity teams last year.
Partly because of that growth, the Flowood Drive facility no longer meets Infinity’s needs. “The size is big enough, but the layout is not functional for what we needed,” he said. “We have five courts, but only three are playable for tournaments. Two courts are regulation size but don’t have the out-of-bound space we need to play on. We can use (those courts) for practices, but not much else.”
The new facility will sit on approximately 3.39 acres and will have an entry and exit point along Harbour Pointe Crossing. It will include eight courts and will be able to serve between 210 and 220 athletes.
The current academy will remain open until the new facility is complete. Club volleyball typically begins in late fall/early winter, after the high school season ends.
“We’ll start practices back up in November,” Hazelwood said. “Tournaments will start in January.”
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