VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) – When Dick Whalen first began the North American Sand Soccer Championships in 1994, there was a modest turnout of around 30 teams who had to play on a rather chilly day in May.
Whalen, the tournament’s founder and executive director, called it a “hoot” watching everyone play in sweatshirts and sweat pants.
Now in its 24th year, the NASSC will welcome more than 1,000 teams, representing 20 different states and around the same number of countries.
“We’re kind of the ‘Grand Daddy of Them All,'” said Matt Whalen, Dick’s son and the tournament’s assistant director.
The NASSC has become the biggest event of its kind in the world, and includes youth, amateur, and professional teams. “It’s a fun festival atmosphere,” said Matt Whalen.
The professional circuit, which welcomes teams from all over the world, still draws huge crowds, with the stadium located around 24th St. “(It) draws the crowds, night games included, some of the best athletes in the sports in the world. What’s not to like?” said Dick Whalen.