Crossing Courts Creates Space for All in Volleyball
Meet Maurice Williams, the founder of Crossing Courts in Sunrise, Florida, a black- and queer-owned organization that aims to make the sport of volleyball more accessible and inclusive.
Maurice Williams, better known as Coach Mo, got his start in volleyball at 23. He had recently moved home with his parents when a close friend asked him to join an outdoor beach volleyball team.
“I thought, 'why not?'" said Williams. “I needed an escape, and I had been a track and field athlete my whole life, so I thought, 'why not give volleyball a try?' The minute I hit the court, I instantly fell in love with the sport.”
From there, Williams began to play in tournaments around the country. He was drawn to volleyball and its tight-knit community. But as he continued to grow within the sport, Williams realized he never really saw many athletes with whom he identified.
Williams elaborated, “In 2015, I went and played volleyball in Atlanta for an organization called NAGVA (North American Gay Volleyball Association), and that's where I was like, huh— there are actually black folks who play volleyball. This isn’t like the church picnic or the family reunion volleyball game. This was organized and competitive. I had the chance to be black, gay, and competitive—all of the things I had been told couldn’t exist in the same space.”
It was at a NAGVA tournament that Williams had an epiphany. He knew there had to be other athletes within the sport of volleyball that felt the same way he did, so he decided to create an organization that would promote accessibility and inclusion within the sport. This idea eventually grew into Crossing Courts.
“Crossing Courts volleyball is a chance for me to be the change I want to see in the world,” said Williams. “It is coaching; it’s a podcast; it’s mental health awareness; it’s a volleyball club. It’s all about creating and leaving the sport of volleyball better than I found it.”
Williams has been developing his organization for the past seven months. And today, his organization focuses on two projects: a podcast and an accessible volleyball club for students in Sunrise, Florida.
Crossing Courts Podcast
The Crossing Courts podcast is an extension of the organization's overall message. Williams collaborates with other volleyball players to release episodes that tackle topics like how to become a professional volleyball player, mental health awareness, the importance of inclusivity, etc.
“This mentality of just ‘shut up and dribble’ or 'shut up and go out there and do your thing' just doesn’t work,” said Williams. “People go through real hard stuff in their lives, real struggles. What happens if you play for a coach and they are racist? What if they are sexist? What if you are struggling with your mental health? These are real issues that people have to learn to navigate throughout life. They are bigger than the sport.”
These are issues Crossing Courts tackles in the podcast. Williams described how mental health is a large area of focus for him in the Crossing Courts podcast.
He said, “I feel as though all throughout my 20s, I was figuring out and deciphering my mental baggage, and now I’ve been able to come out on the other side with a clear mind. I know somebody else somewhere else needs to hear me. They need to know that if I can do it, they can do it too. The podcast is a movement, a feeling, a purpose, a community—everything I didn’t always see in sports growing up.”
Listeners can access the Crossing Courts Podcast on YouTube and Clubhouse. Podcasts drop weekly.
Crossing Courts Volleyball Club
The Crossing Courts Club is currently finalizing its very own volleyball club. Williams has partnered with the city of Sunrise, Florida, to host the club out of the city's facilities.
Williams described the benefits of the club and his vision for it. “There will be tutors to help the students with their homework, coaches to improve their volleyball skills, and gyms for them to train. It is going to be a one-stop shop—a controlled environment where they can be around people who look like them and are their age. I want them to feel protected and safe.”
Right now, the club has kids ranging from the ages of 8 to 16. Volleyball clubs can be costly in Florida, so the Crossing Courts Club offers a more affordable alternative so that all kids can access the sport of volleyball.
Williams already sees the positive effects his organization is having on his students.
One moment, in particular, has stuck out to him. A 13-year-old student came to practice and was extremely frustrated. The student confided to Williams that her teacher would not allow her to celebrate pride month at school.
“She just talked to me, and I listened,” explained Williams. “She told me she was grateful for how open and herself she could be with me. My eyes started to tear up. That is what I wanted as a kid. I wanted to be my happy little gay self on the court, the football field, and the track and spread my love to everybody. For her to realize at 13 that she should celebrate and accept her authentic self is incredible.”
Updated January 19, 2023