Davey Jones was waiting at the table with three bottles of wine open, breathing and waiting. We had played lots of games together that day and won all of them in ninety five degree sweltering heat, so this was a kind of victory dinner for us. Davey is short and very fast with lots of heart (a “Rudy” so to speak) and had been playing the game for just a few years. I met him years ago when Plastic sponsored one of the tours in Florida, and we maintained and grew our friendship from there. We played our games that day on blinding white hot sand framed by blue/green clear water and I was tired, hot, and happy with the feeling you can only get from playing hard all day. The beach is Gulf Shores, Alabama and the sport is volleyball.
Press Maycock greeted me that morning with a fresh cold juice made from his too- expensive juicing machine. Press grew up in Orange County and had been playing the sport his whole life, even making some headway years ago on the AVP during its heyday. I met Press surfing in Mexico on a big day, while we were dodging bombs and catching the manageable ones in between. Talking between waves we found we had the sport in common, and began meeting with some other friends of mine at Papas and Beer (a Baja California bar with courts inside) to play games a few days a week. We were all close to forty and although we were in good shape, our fitness levels improved dramatically with the weekly meetings. Press and I had both made the decision several years ago to move to Mexico, and we had kids and hobbies in common, so I was stoked to find him as a neighbor. The beach is Rosarito Beach, and the sport is volleyball.
Chad Reichle waved me past the guy at the toll booth in the parking lot and into the space right in front of the bar, even though the parking lot was marked full. Lance had a Mai Tai in my hand before I could get out of the car and the rest of the boys were waiting on the log, planning a mountain bike ride for after the event. Games were in full swing and there was still snow on the mountains across the too-blue-can’t-believe-it lake. These guys don’t warm up much, and Chad threw me straight into a game cold so I could lose a quick one to Jimmy and Robin. After the game the always shockingly cold lake is only a short sprint away, and I ordered another drink from the waitress and watched my wife and kids splashing with the other mothers down the beach. The beach is Zephyr Cove Lake Tahoe, and the sport is volleyball.
These stories could go on and on. The relationships I have forged with these athletes all stemmed from volleyball. My interests have grown far outside of the sport these days, and I tend to practice diaper changes more than I do cut shots, but I will be forever grateful to the sport for the friends that volleyball has helped me find. Our sport is interactive and community based and can be enjoyed by simply traveling and playing in tournaments around the country, and the world.
To my many friends that have long since discovered this secret, I salute you. To the new friends I have yet to meet on our travels, I look forward to meeting you.
Originally published in September/October 2011