BounceBeach: How a 17-year-old high schooler created the most viral account in beach volleyball
The idea began, like all viral ideas do, with something so blatantly obvious it had been overlooked by everyone. Parker Conley was the rare type of teenaged boy in Arizona who was obsessed with beach volleyball. It isn’t entirely unheard of. A handful of professionals hail from Arizona, and the sport has a small presence. But it is rare, to be sure. Conley sought any resource he could to learn the sport. Namely, YouTube. He’d watch anything he could find, no matter the era – old school Sinjin and Karch, all things Taylor Crabb, American or international, male or female. He’d see highlight after highlight, realizing, to his own subtle surprise, that there was no Instagram account that shared them. Other sports – basketball, primarily – have thousands of social media accounts dedicated almost exclusively to highlights, sharing clips that go viral, the type you’d see on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. Beach volleyball had none of that. “I thought,” Conley said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “I should do it.” Thus, BounceBeach was born. Maybe. He waffled between names for a bit, seeking something about beach volleyball and some kind of impressive play within the sport. Bouncing a ball is one of the more highlight-worthy plays – just ask Sean Rosenthal, who is still, 13 years later, asked about his “Vegas Line” – and the alliteration worked. Conley created the Instagram account, pouring over film from The Hague four-star in 2019 as his first event, and began creating highlights. “I posted six or seven videos, the quality was horrible, I had a huge watermark, you could hardly see the players,” Conley said, laughing at the memory of his first attempt. “I was like ‘I’m not letting those stay on my page.’” Nevertheless, the social media world took notice. When a sport is starved for content, particularly highlights that players can use to market their own brand, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the highest of quality. As Conley perfected his craft, the momentum only increased, a snowball careening down the mountain. Soon, the pros themselves, the same ones on which Conley had watched so many hours of film, began reaching out: Phil Dalhausser, Jake Gibb, Nick Lucena, Casey Patterson. Could Conley send over a few highlights they could use? After sitting down for half an hour, processing the fact that it was, indeed, that Phil Dalhausser who had messaged him, Conley would reply: Of course he’d send over a highlight. “I had no idea where it was going to go,” said Conley, who is 17 and enrolled in online classes both at a high school and Arizona State. “I’m still blown away by how many people are following it. I thought I would eventually hit the cap and I’d stop getting followers but I haven’t hit it.” If anything, BounceBeach is only picking up speed, taking on a life of its own. It’s morphed into something of an online forum, a place to discuss the highlights, where the best players in the world can beat their chest or poke fun of others. It’s its own subculture, in a way. When Conley posted a video of John Hyden digging a ruthless swing from Taylor Crabb, putting the ensuing transition point away with a jumbo poke that tagged the back line, Crabb commented, in jest, “Who won?” This ignited a string of amusing comments and debates, becoming its own chat room. “As I started growing, it’s been cool to see how the pros interact with it,” Conley said. “That was my goal, originally: to have my name known, build a brand for myself in a way. Having it be a forum in a way where pros will talk about highlights has been kind of surreal.” In less than a year and a half, Conley has amassed nearly 40,000 followers. More than that, he’s created something that virtually every beach volleyball player and fan turns to when seeking highlights. He tapped the latent gold mine of content, becoming essentially the exclusive source of viral clips. The FIVB took note, asking Conley to edit some highlights for them as well, joining the growing list of players. It’s become almost a competition among players to get their highlights featured on BounceBeach, which has become beach volleyball’s version of SportsCenter. “It’s been crazy, surreal to see people say ‘I got on BounceBeach!’ I never expected that,” Conley said. “It’s insane. It almost has become something on its own, where people consider it a brand. When I started, I was just posting highlights for the fun of it.” He’s still having fun with it. Still digging through YouTube, discovering gems with barely any views. “I’m like ‘How has nobody ever seen this?’” Conley said. With him, and BounceBeach, now everybody can.
Duration: 1 hr 3 min