Long Beach native Sherridan Atkinson will be joining Athletes Unlimited, the first professional indoor women’s volleyball league in the United States, launching this month in Texas.
Atkinson played varsity volleyball at Millikan High School for three years, and graduated in 2014. She then joined Long Beach State women’s volleyball team for two years before transferring to Purdue, where she earned All-American honors.
Once her collegiate career came to a close, Atkinson took her talents overseas.
In December 2018-2019 she played for Galatasaray located in Istanbul, Turkey. In August 2019 she played for Hi-Pass in Gimcheon, South Korea and in January 2020 she competed with Nilüfer Belediyesi in Bursa, Turkey. This season however came to an abrupt end due to COVID-19.
“When I was In Turkey this past season, it was scary trying to get out before everything shut down,” said Atkinson. “I got out probably two days before there was no more traveling…going to play overseas is just a big risk in general [right now].”
The pandemic has forced Atkinson to conduct at-home workouts, but closer to her report date, she plans on getting in the gym and working out with private trainers to prepare for the upcoming pro league.
The new women’s volleyball league is a partnership between USA Volleyball and Athletes Unlimited, a non-profit organization that aims to showcase underrepresented athletes and sports (they’re also launching a pro softball league). Athletes Unlimited is trying a new model of professional sports where athletes are in charge, and all the profits that go to them are earned based on individual and team performances.
Advisers who have stepped up as financial backers include NBA star Kevin Durant, two-time softball Olympian Jessica Mendoza, and two-time soccer Olympian and gold medalist Abby Wambach.
The season will take place in one location in Nashville, mimicking the current model of the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, but with a twist. Of the forty players chosen, none are bound to specific cities, and all are given the opportunity to become stakeholders in the league.
“Usually you have people who own the league and in this sense, we are the people who own the league. By signing a contract we actually are able to invest in the league,” said Atkinson.
In regard to the format of play, lineups will be fluid and the top four performing athletes each week will serve as captains and draft their teams for the next week. Compensation for each player above a base salary will be based on their individual performances in addition to bonuses and different incentives.
Despite the league schedule being only six weeks, Atkinson said she’s excited to help launch pro women’s volleyball in the United States.
“I think I’m just looking forward to being able to be home and just play at home,” Atkinson said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to make volleyball a respected sport beyond the collegiate level, and represent my sport, something that I care about.”
Erin Williams contributed to this article