Thursday, December 12, 2013

Court & Spark documentary set to premiere during NCAA Volleyball Final Four

Two screenings at AVCA Convention plus opportunities to purchase a DVD; proceeds benefit volleyball

We marked this week on our calendars a long time ago.
available now at

Since 2004, we’ve traveled to—and reported from—every NCAA D1 Women’s Volleyball Championship except one. After memorable journeys to California (twice), Texas (twice), Missouri, Florida, Nebraska and Kentucky, the Final Four was coming home.

Well, to our home, anyway: Seattle’s Key Arena, just a few minutes from our neighborhood.

And just over a year ago, we were asked about doing something special to mark the occasion.

The people who nurture, promote, and celebrate much of Western Washington’s volleyball world are the directors and staff of the nonprofit Puget Sound Region of USA Volleyball (PSR). West of the Cascades, from the Peace Arch to Thurston County, these fine folks quietly coordinate countless thousands of events—youth, adult, indoor, sand, sitting and other volleyball variations—all with little fanfare and impressive results.

But, as Seattle’s turn to host the NCAA Final Four loomed, there were questions. Why, they wondered, don’t more people realize just what a big deal volleyball has become? What if PSR commissioned a documentary that shines light on a sport that was born in America, become wildly popular around the world, and is now inexorably becoming the major women’s team sport in the USA? (Want proof? In half the states—half the states!—more girls play high school volleyball than any other team sport—more than basketball, more than softball, even more than soccer.)

So PSR came to us. We produce documentaries. And we've had a fair amount of experience with volleyball. But we told PSR that any great story needs a knockout lead character. Someone like our very own Olympian, Courtney Thompson.

To make it work, we needed to probe the minds of many of the sport’s illustrious figures. And we needed to follow Courtney through the highs and lows, the good and bad of a year in her volleyball life.

One day, just weeks after the London Olympics, Courtney said yes. But she also insisted we spend time where most of America’s volleyball elite live and work: overseas. In Courtney’s case, that meant the heart of Europe in the dead of winter. A Polish city we’d never heard of—and now, will never forget—called Łódź (and pronounced “Woodge.”) It’s an eye-opening part of the documentary.

And so, we spent a frigid February with Courtney as her Polish team pushed toward the playoffs. We later enjoyed a comparatively balmy several weeks in Southern California, as she trained with the National Team. As we hoped, we captured moments of humor, pain, soul-searching and triumph. Our many conversations included coaches, athletes and administrators refreshingly willing to avoid clichés and strike directly at the heart of the how and why of their sport. You don’t have to know much about volleyball to appreciate their insight. And if you do know a lot about volleyball, you’ll still learn a thing or two. Or three.

In the end, we hope Court & Spark is a conversation starter. Once you’re introduced to Courtney’s world, you’ll realize just how many challenges she’s faced—and learn that many of those challenges are not all that different from what countless thousands of parents, coaches and athletes face every day. We hope folks watch Court & Spark with their parents, their kids, their coaches and their teammates, and that they’ll be inspired to continue the dialogue that Courtney so brilliantly begins in the documentary.

Once you've seen Court & Spark, we’d love to hear what you have to say. Please feel free to send a note to both us ( and to Puget Sound Region of USA Volleyball ( If you’d like, we’ll pass along your comments to Courtney and others featured in the program.

early praise for Court & Spark

None of this would have happened without the extraordinary support of our sponsors. The Floyd and Delores Jones Foundation has been a leader in our community to improve health care, education, civic engagement, the arts and the empowerment of women. This documentary would not have been produced without their vision and their generous support.

We also received significant support from Baden, a national manufacturer of leading-edge sporting equipment based here in our own community, and from premier volleyball organizations like the American Volleyball Coaches AssociationUSA Volleyball and Gold Medal Squared.

Finally, please know that all proceeds from the sale of DVDs will help further support and promote volleyball through the nonprofit Puget Sound Region of USA Volleyball. Please consider ordering copies—several even!—directly from their website,

-Leslie & Jack

Brett Hamann (video, audio, post), Jack Hamann (co-producer, writer), Courtney Thompson, Leslie Hamann (co-producer, video, editor)
-courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography

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