BUSINESS BRIEF: Wilmington’s 3STEP Sports Acquires The Academy Volleyball Club

Below is a press release from 3STEP Sports, which is headquartered in Wilmington:

WILMINGTON, MA — 3STEP Sports, the nation’s largest and most impactful club and event operator, has acquired The Academy Volleyball Club, one of the largest and best youth organizations in the country. The Academy joins recent acquisitions KIVA and Munciana as foundational pieces of 3STEP’s growing volleyball division.

Founded by a group including Emily and Steve Hawthorne in September 2014, The Academy started with only 36 teams. The goal was to fill a void for volleyball instruction in Indianapolis and also develop the whole athlete. Over the past eight years, The Academy has grown into one of the largest and most respected clubs in the nation. There are now 160 teams in three locations, as well as a boys program and a youth academy. The Academy runs 32 events and nearly 10,000 kids come through its doors every year.

“We are big and people like to focus on the numbers, but our goal was never to be a really big club,” said Emily Hawthorne, who was named AVCA Club Director of the Year in 2020. “Our goal is to provide for every athlete and prepare them for life after volleyball. As we’ve grown, it has been very important to make sure we keep the small club family feel. We have outstanding coaches and use a very individualized approach.”

Hawthorne has always been focused on organic growth and the journey more than the destination. Now, she’s excited to be part of something even bigger. “I remember sitting down with my dad before we opened and figuring out that we needed 15 teams to break even,” she said. “I never could have imagined this. Being able to join a great group of volleyball clubs and learn from them is tremendous. And joining 3STEP where there’s no lack of speed and limits is going to help us achieve great things together.”

The 3STEP reach spans 43 states and serves more than 3.2 million athletes across eight sports through industry-leading events, nationally spanning club programs, premier media content and more. 3STEP was founded by David Geaslen, who sought to create better experiences and more opportunities for athletes and their families. The mission of 3STEP is to be the standard of the youth sports experience and create consistency in the industry. 3STEP also operates the non-profit charity Mission Win, which aims to transform the lives of children through sports participation, leadership training and professional development.

“Emily is a fantastic leader, coach and businesswoman,” said Geaslen. “She has used her vision and work ethic to build one of the best clubs in the country. Volleyball is a huge focus and area of growth for us, and with the addition of The Academy our volleyball division just got a lot stronger.”

To learn more about 3STEP Sports, go to

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