NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship uses nets made by Hilliard Company

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This year’s NCAA Women’s Division I Volleyball Championships are taking place at Nationwide Arena on December 16-18, and you might be wondering who’s feeding the net, or maybe you’re a little curious. now.

The answer isn’t far from home: it’s Hilliard-based Sports Imports, a woman-owned family business that has been supplying volleyball net systems nationwide for decades.

Sports Imports was co-founded in 1976 by the late Ken Dunlap, former head coach of the Ohio State University men’s volleyball team, Mark Watson and Doug Beal, former CEO of USA Volleyball. It bills itself as the first ground plate sleeve system in the United States, which uses a hole drilled in the ground to hold the net posts instead of using a traditional wire system.

The company started as a distributor of volleyball equipment for the Japanese company Senoh, but has since expanded into its own products. Sports Imports is proud to have 75% of its products made in the USA.

A sign hangs at the entrance to Nationwide Arena ahead of the NCAA Women's Division I Volleyball Championship in Columbus on December 14.

Since its inception, Sports Imports has sold over 61,000 net systems and the product is used in over 90% of all D1 volleyball programs as well as all Olympic indoor and sand volleyball competitions /of beach.

The famous net system quickly developed trust, with endorsements from the founders and the OSU, who each had helpful connections in the volleyball world, says CEO and owner Cyndie Dunlap.

Today, 1,192 institutions in Ohio alone depend on Sports Imports. It also partners with USA Volleyball, the American Volleyball Coaches Association and more. In 2003, he joined the NCAA.

“We love partnering with the NCAA,” says Dunlap. “It’s just fun to be at the top of our sport.”

Every year, Dunlap and her team highlight every team they serve in the NCAA Tournament, and usually by the time they’re done, more than 60 of the 64 teams have been highlighted, she said. And with the championship games taking place in Columbus, the team feels more hometown pride than ever.

The championship could also mean a lot for Columbus, with an economic impact north of 14 million, according to destination marketing firm SimpleView. For Linda Logan, executive director of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, having Sports Imports so close to home is invaluable.

“Sports Imports is a pioneer in the sale of this equipment,” says Logan. “He’s known all over the world, and it’s so great to have them in our own backyard.”

Sports Imports released its all-carbon pole in 2012, another first for the industry, Dunlap says. It’s as strong as traditional steel poles, but weighs 19 pounds, compared to a 55-pound steel pole, making installation easier.

As business continues to grow, it took an unusual amount of courage to run the business. It was 1993 when founder Ken Dunlap suddenly suffered a stroke and, at age 23, his son Dave Dunlap took over the business.

Dave, Cyndie’s husband and father of their three daughters, led the company for a decade, helping to formulate the partnership with the NCAA. But, the day before the documents were signed, he died suddenly overnight.

National Arena teams deploy Taraflex flooring for the NCAA Women's Division I Volleyball Championship volleyball court at Nationwide Arena in December 2021.

For the next few years, Cyndie’s late father, Ken MacKenzie, watched over Sports Imports as she helped her daughters recover. When she felt ready to run the business, she knew it would be tough – she is a registered dietitian. But she knew she could translate her ability to take care of people into the business world.

“I started out thinking, ‘OK, this must be a great place to work, first and foremost.’ And then I realized that I could learn other things.

For Cyndie, having a great workplace means having heart and passion, she says, values ​​instilled by her husband and stepfather. Then it’s about motivating his team to wear it on their sleeves. The 25 employees care for the coaches they serve, often treating them as friends, following career developments and life.

Sports Imports gives back to a variety of causes, including the Dream Center on Greenwood Avenue, where the team has helped serve meals and donated to help the homeless.

As for the future of Sports Imports, Cyndie says the focus is on what it’s always been: innovation. But his involvement seems a little different than in years past. A breast cancer survivor, she was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which forced her to walk away more often.

Following her diagnosis, she named Danielle Calo president, and her team continued to remain dedicated, cultivating a “yes and” mentality. She’s sure her team will continue to push for her and the company because she’s seen them do it before, she says.

“I try to treat it like, this is the adventure I’m on,” Cyndie says. “I also believe that things happen for a reason. I think it gave me a new appreciation and I grew personally – I appreciate things more. I think that helped me. When it comes to our team, we’re so resilient.

[email protected]

Sports imports

sportsimports.com

4000 Promenade Alley

Hilliard 43026

Company: Volleyball equipment including net systems, posts and more for indoor and outdoor use.

Owner/CEO: Cyndie Dunlap

Employees: 25

Annual turnover: would not disclose

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