The Starlings concept was initiated by Byron Shewman in 1995. The former USA Men’s Volleyball Team member sought to establish a volleyball/academic program that would largely serve girls from lower socioeconomic groups. Olympian Kim Oden joined Shewman and co-founded the first club in San Diego, Calif., in 1996.
Through the support of Nike and the Amateur Athletic Foundation in 1996, clubs were established in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and on a Navajo reservation in the Four Corners area of Arizona.
Financial donations from Nike, USA Volleyball, Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, the Amateur Athletic Foundation, and generous individuals allowed the program to continue national expansion. In 1997, programs were active in 14 major cities and reservations; programs increased to 18 in 1998. In July of 1998, 24 Starlings teams from across the country participated in the first annual Starlings National Championship in Dallas, Texas — as part of USA Volleyball’s Junior National Championship. In 1999, programs increased to 22 cities and reservations while 32 Starlings teams traveled to New Orleans for the national championship. In 2000, expansion grew to 30 Starlings clubs and drew 57 teams to the nationals.
Since 2000, most clubs have shown steady growth in number of teams and participants. There is an annual East Coast Starlings Championship. The national championship, held in San Diego, has steadily expanded. In 2005, the four-day event drew 87 teams from over 20 cities.
Pictured: Some 1,500 Starlings girls played, danced, laughed and frolicked on the famous beaches of San Diego at the 12th annual Nationals, which began with Opening Ceremonies at Sweetwater High.