Fit for FriscoJan 01, 2017 ● By Stephen Hunt
Volleyball’s Driving ForceArneva Martin is the president of the Frisco Sports Network, which does business as Lone Star Volleyball. Since helping start the organization in 2003, she has not only seen Frisco grow by leaps and bounds, but she has also witnessed volleyball become immensely popular in our burgeoning city.
“When we started with our club program, we had 12 kids. We now have anywhere from 220 to almost 300,” Ms. Martin says. “Within our youth league, we started out with 25 kids the first year, in 2006, and we have more than 1,100 kids in our busiest spring season. I would say we have probably got somewhere around 1,000 kids who have been through our academy training program.”
When founded, Lone Star Volleyball was one of few club volleyball organizations north of Interstate 635. The organization began by running its club teams at Frisco High School and at local middle school gyms. In 2011, Lone Star Volleyball opened its own building, a 63,000-square-foot facility, which Ms. Martin says could be one of the bigger volleyball-only facilities in the region.
This organization not only runs teams at the club level, but it also runs youth leagues for players from first through twelfth grade. Lone Star Volleyball also has an academy boot camp, which is for kids new to the game, plus camps, clinics and an extended-time program for intermediate and advanced players.
Ms. Martin says the organization currently draws players from a 25-mile radius of Frisco, a range including neighboring communities such as Plano, Prosper and The Colony. But, the biggest measure of their impact in the community might be in the number of its players who land scholarships to play college volleyball at the Division I level at schools like Baylor University, the University of Illinois and Oklahoma University. “Just these last couple seasons, we have had kids earn scholarships to major D-1 universities coming out of our club program,” Ms. Martin shares. “It has really, really been exciting to be able to help parents subsidize their kids’ college through athletics.”
Lone Star Volleyball no longer has any of its club teams playing in Frisco schools, but the organization still maintains a close relationship with the local volleyball community. The organization hires coaches from the middle and high school levels for various programs and it also gives back by providing these same coaches with t-shirts for their summer camps.
However, as Frisco continues to grow, Ms. Martin expects the number of participants for her organization’s programs to also increase, which presents an interesting challenge. One of the main reasons Lone Star Volleyball got its own facility five years ago was because, with the high numbers of children playing volleyball, the organization had simply outgrown local schools.
As Lone Star Volleyball’s numbers keep increasing, it is interesting to hear Ms. Martin say that one potential solution could see them returning to their roots as an organization and getting back into the schools. “We have only got so many courts and so much space,” Ms. Martin says. “We are discussing going back into the schools with some of our youth practices and I have already talked to them. They are willing to support us with that again, so our growth potential right now is really moving back into the schools.”
A Club Like No OtherEven in its currently-unfinished state, The Star in Frisco is already an impressive facility. In the coming months, various restaurants, retailers and even the Omni Hotel will open at the site of the Cowboys’ headquarters, just off Gaylord Parkway and the Dallas North Tollway.
One of the most discussed additions to the complex might be Cowboys Fit, the 60,000-square-foot Cowboys-themed health club scheduled to open in early 2017. The facility is a brainchild of the Jerry Jones family, as they wanted to construct a state-of-the-art health club like no other in our area.
Johnny delaValdene is the CEO of Cowboys Fit, and even as someone who has worked in the fitness business for much of his life, he continues to be awed by all the bells and whistles Cowboys Fit will feature once it opens. “It was three years in the works,” Mr. delaValdene says. “It has grown a lot since the club we first envisioned. We just keep getting better and better. With partners like Gatorade® and Nike, it is going to be something like no one has ever seen.”
Cowboys Fit will feature a juice bar where members can purchase energy drinks, snacks or even meals with food approved by the Cowboys’ team nutritionist. Nike, a big Cowboys sponsor, will have a large presence at the facility with the Nike Experience, a shop where customers can purchase the company’s latest innovate gear. Fellow sponsor, Gatorade, will also have a prominent presence at Cowboys Fit through its Gatorade Sports Institute.
A spin room, which holds 50 exercise bikes and can accommodate 65 people, backs up to the plaza at The Star so that on nice days, classes can be held outside, underneath the giant screen television on the side of the building.
Just under that giant screen, which can be seen for miles, sits a turf football field. This field is home to Football Fit classes, where participants are put through a full football workout by a former National Football League (NFL) player who also teaches technical aspects of the game. That field is also home to Church Fit, which held its first class in early November. Church Fit, held Sunday mornings, combines a boot camp-style workout with a positive message and Christian fellowship.
Cowboys Fit will also offer Cheer Fit classes, cheerleader-inspired workouts that will be led by Kelli Finglass, the director of the world-famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, who will have their own studio on the second floor of Cowboys Fit.
Cowboys Fit is not solely about niche workouts. The recovery lounge is where Cowboys players can come after practice to get a massage and recover, and where Cowboys Fit members can receive the same treatment as their favorite players. Members will also like the interactive wall on the second floor where popular Cowboys like Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott offer fitness tips at the touch of a button.
The Rowdy room, named for the Cowboys’ mascot, is a place full of interactive televisions, where children between 3 and 12 can go while their mom and dad work out. Cowboys Fit will also have state-of-the-art locker rooms, complete with tile personally selected by Mr. Jones’ daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson, the Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer, and saunas.
Frisco is home to the first Cowboys Fit, but the Jones family vision sees that brand as having a much wider footprint in the future. “In Dallas, we hope to have eight Cowboys Fits,” Mr. delaValdene says. “We are going to do San Antonio and Austin — big fan bases in both those [cities]. We have also taken it to all the other NFL teams. Because of the power of Mr. Jones, they all want to follow his lead.”
A Familiar NameWhen sports fans hear the words “blue” and “star,” they likely think of the Dallas Cowboys and their iconic symbol. So, when Frisco residents hear the title “Blue Star Sports,” they will logically conclude it refers to a Cowboy-related organization.
Blue Star Sports was created in April of 2016, when the Jones family wanted to participate in a youth sports software company founded by Rob Wechsler, a longtime Frisco resident who has built three successful companies in the last 10 years. Blue Star Sports quickly started acquiring companies that handled all aspects of the youth sports experience, including payment and registration, websites, stats and performance. Just eight months and seven acquisitions later, Blue Star Sports is the largest and best-in-class youth sports technology company, with more than three million teams and 30 million users.
Associations, leagues, clubs and teams can handle all their pertinent business in one software — everything from setting rosters, scheduling, communication, stats, managing officials and events. “The goal is to stack all these technologies into one platform so we can, hopefully, capture the parent or the athlete at a young age and keep them within our software all the way through the process, up through getting recruited by a college,” says Jerry Mooty, the chief business and legal officer of Blue Star Sports.
Mr. Mooty, who has a legal background and previously worked for Blue Star Payment Solutions, is a parent of two teenage boys. As someone who has registered for his share of leagues over the years, across all sports, he knows the inefficiencies and issues with various software for registration and other aspects of youth sports, shortcomings he believes Blue Star Sports can streamline.
Blue Star Sports wants to be the hub for youth sports for players, parents, coaches and administrators, offering a one-stop shop for families. “I have two boys who are very active in sports. They are now 15 and 13. Over the last 10 years, I have been involved in everything from soccer, flag football, lacrosse and football, so I have personal knowledge of the inefficiencies in the youth sports software space, which we plan to fix,” Mr. Mooty says.
The recent arrival of the Dallas Cowboys and the opening of The Star in Frisco have again brought sports to the forefront in our community. The tremendous growth also highlights the ongoing connection between sports and fitness, offering an economic gain in our diverse community. Three companies, Blue Star Sports, Cowboys Fit and the Frisco Sports Network, have not only found their respective niches in the local sports/fitness scene, but they are also making positive impacts in their own unique way, which is really what is most important for the prosperity of any new local business.