USA Volleyball suspends beach icon Sinjin Smith


Sinjin Smith, one of the most dominant and influential players in beach volleyball history, has been suspended indefinitely by USA Volleyball, the sport’s national governing body, the Southern California News Group has learned.

Smith, the first player to win 100 open beach volleyball tournaments, has been suspended since May 31 and may not participate or attend USA Volleyball sanctioned events, according to USA Volleyball’s suspended list.

The reason for the suspension is listed by USA Volleyball as “U.S. Center for SafeSport administrative hold.”

When asked if the listing of Smith suspension was accurate and what was the reason for the suspension, Liani Reyna, USA Volleyball manager for SafeSport, said: “I have no comment.”

USA Volleyball communications manager B.J. Hoeptner-Evans also declined to comment.

Smith, in a series of telephone interviews and text messages since October 10, said he has “no idea why” he has been suspended by USA Volleyball.

Smith said he was unaware of the suspension until he was informed of it by SCNG more than four months after it went into effect.

“I’m not sure why you are hell bent on trying to mess with me?” Smith said in a text Thursday in response to a question about when he was last a member of USA Volleyball. “I think it is time to stop trying to find a way to tarnish my career. You must have better things to do?”

Smith on October 12 said he spoke with Reyna “who knows nothing.”

Smith said he is no longer a member of USA Volleyball. Nineteen persons on USA Volleyball’s suspended members list have “U.S. Center for SafeSport administrative hold” cited as the rule or code violation for their suspension. All 19 were suspended after their USA Volleyball membership had lapsed.

Smith said he does not remember when he was last a member of USA Volleyball.

“Don’t know,” he said. “Haven’t kept track.”

On Oct. 12, Smith also said he spoke to an official at the U.S. Center for SafeSport after speaking with Reyna. Smith said he did not recall the name of the U.S. Center for SafeSport official he spoke to.

The SafeSport official told Smith “they have no reason to investigate because I am not a USAV member,” Smith wrote in an Oct. 12 text. “She said USAV had no reason to post my name on their suspended list as I am not a member (of USA Volleyball). There is no suspension of non members. If I was trying to become a member, then they could open an investigation. I don’t have a reason to become a member.

“If for some reason there was a serious offense reporter, I am sure I would have heard something from other sources (of course there is not).

“If I decide to become a member of the USAV, I may find out what the issue is but like I said, no reason to do so at this time. Still, my curiosity is peaked!

“The gal at safe sport said there is a range of potential offenses that could be reported including verbal abuse all the way to much worse stuff which I think is listed on their site.”

Smith said the SafeSport official encouraged him to check back with USA Volleyball to see if they would remove his name from the suspended list. More than three weeks ago he said he contacted USA Volleyball again about the suspension. Smith said on Monday he still had not heard back from USA Volleyball.

A U.S. Center for SafeSport spokesman declined to comment on Smith’s status as suspended.

Hoeptner-Evans, USA Volleyball’s communications manager, initially declined to comment on the Smith suspension in early October. On Wednesday SCNG contacted Hoeptner-Evans again detailing Smith’s comments and asking for the reason for the suspension and if the national governing body would confirm that the suspension is still in place. Hoeptner-Evans said she would relay the questions to her bosses at USA Volleyball. In an email Thursday, Hoeptner-Evans wrote, “we do not have a response for your article.”

Smith, 66, has been involved in coaching and putting on clinics since retiring as a player in 2001. He coaches the Sinjin Beach Club, an age-group program based out of Santa Monica, adjacent to the Annenberg Beach House.

“Beach volleyball isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” reads the Sinjin Beach Club website. “Our club embodies this by giving our players the tools to compete at the highest level and to have fun while doing so. We achieve this by offering elite coaches and drills that have been tested and proven by King of the Beach, Sinjin Smith. The most important thing to us is growing the sport and bringing it back to what it used to be.”

Smith has also run camps for the past 21 years. This past summer, Sinjin Smith’s Beach Volleyball Camps (BVC) operated camps in nine Los Angeles County communities.

Smith is the third current or former U.S. Olympic volleyball team member to be suspended by USA Volleyball in recent years.

Scott Touzinsky, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist with the United States volleyball team, was suspended by USA Volleyball in July 2018 in response to allegations of sexual misconduct involving an underage female athlete at a camp or clinic in Canada, according to U.S. Center for SafeSport and USA Volleyball documents obtained by the Southern California News Group.  

Beach player Taylor Crabb was suspended by USA Volleyball in 2017 for misconduct involving a minor-aged girl, according to USA Volleyball documents obtained by SCNG. USA Volleyball’s board of directors voted unanimously in May 2019 to extend the suspension through Sept. 28, 2021, after Crabb breached a settlement agreement for the first suspension by coaching at a camp for junior girls.

The decision was made with the clear realization that it would prevent Crabb from competing in the Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for 2020. An arbitrator later reduced Crabb’s suspension, clearing the way for him to compete in the 2021 Olympic Games. Crabb, however, missed the Tokyo Games after contracting COVID just days before the Olympics. He most recently teamed with Taylor Sander to win his first Manhattan Beach Open on Aug. 20.

Smith, a 1996 Olympian, led UCLA to NCAA titles in 1978 and 1979 and was a member of the U.S national team indoors from 1979 to 1982 before focusing on the beach game.

Smith won AVP International titles in parts of three decades. He was so dominant that the International Volleyball Hall of Fame called him the “King of the Beach” when he was inducted into the hall in 2003.

Smith even inspired an Electronic Arts video game fittingly called “King of the Beach.”

Smith was also influential off the beach, playing a leading role in the creation of the AVP, eventually serving as president and on the board of directors for the group. He was also a driving force behind the creation FIVB World Tour. Smith also served as president of the Beach Volleyball World Council.


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