Deng Thepharat was in Seaside mid-March to introduce himself to members of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce. One of three new directors of the Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament, he hopes to bring more streamlined play, more teams, more dates and more age groups to the event.
Thepharat even told chamber members that new smartphone technology can provide hours of free time for competitors — time that can be spent browsing, dining or shopping in Seaside.
“You’ll be able to find out when you play, where you’ll play and against who,” Co-Director PT Thilavanh said. “All this will be in the palm of your smartphone, your tablet or your laptop. You’ll be able to tell your friends and family when you’re playing so they can cheer you on. .”
Thilavanh and Thepharat have been friends since childhood. They came from the same small village in Laos to the Pacific Northwest as child refugees during the war in Vietnam.
“Our sponsor was from Seaside, so that’s how we got here,” Thepharat said. “We played volleyball in our village and when we got to Seaside, we played volleyball here.”
In partnership with fellow volleyball enthusiast Mike Griffin, these three are the new NWAS/Bad Boys Open Volleyball tournament directors for the 35th annual Seaside Chamber Beach Volleyball event Aug. 12-14.
NWAS and Bad Boys Open Volleyball are two Portland groups operated by Thepharat, Thilavanh and Griffin, active members of the volleyball community and former players at the Seaside tournament.
Last year 1,509 teams competed on 134 courts.
The Seaside Chamber has hosted the event for three decades.
An all-charity event, funds have been raised to benefit the Children’s Cancer Association, Wounded Warrior Project, Big Brothers Big Sisters (Columbia NW) and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, among other charities.
Thilavanh, an information technology professional at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, said the tournament is an asset to Seaside because it brings people out to enjoy what the community has to offer.
“It’s a tradition for many people and a great start of new one, not to mention the revenues it generates for local businesses,” he said.
Thepharat, a professional software developer, said he and his partners put in their bid to direct the tournament because they believed they could improve the game overall.
“We’re introducing music and we are addressing our pet peeve that the tournaments be run on time,” Thepharat said. “In some tournaments you don’t play for hours. We’ve also added an extra day and more for juniors.”
Mike Griffin, founder of Bad Boys Open Volleyball, which got its start in 2000 and a police officer for 20 years in Washington County in Beaverton, said he met Thepharat and Thilavanh when they were practically youngsters and playing in his tournament.
“I’ve been playing the Seaside tournament since 1989 or ’90,” Griffin said. “It’s a tradition for a lot of people. PT, Deng and I threw our names in the hat when we found out the chamber was looking for new directors. Nothing against the guys who ran it before — they’re great guys — but we’ve got some new ideas we’d like to see happen.”
Griffin said he’s really excited to be part of this tournament. “Volleyball is a big part of my life, just as it is PT and Deng’s. I’ve made a ton of friends through the volleyball community. We know it’s a big venture to put on the 35th annual tournament. There will be high expectations and we hope we do a good enough job that everybody will be happy. We’re ready for the challenge.”
Registration is now open for the summer tournament at seasidebeachvolleyball.com.
A chamber welcome
“I have to say their enthusiasm is infectious,” Cyndi Mudge of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce. “Every time we talk to them they are so passionate about growing the juniors division.”
Mudge said the chamber isn’t anticipating growing the registration past 1,500 teams, but is working to improve the players’ experience, meaning more play time, and a digital format to make things easier for the players.
“We’ll have bags and prizes and we want to make sure the players feel well taken care of and are more free to shop downtown and visit local restaurants,” Mudge said.