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By Angela Masterson Jones
Volleyball is the ultimate team sport for the beach. All you need is a ball, a few friends or relatives, a net and something to tie it on. Just about anyone can play. You don’t have to be big, fast or preposterously athletic to enjoy it, and you’re ready for a swim when it’s over. Maybe that at least partly explains the popularity of the sport and its phenomenal growth. Volleyball has indeed traveled a long way in 110 years. Kim Whitney, for one, has traveled a long way to play it, but with volleyball venues galore, including a new world-class facility in Clearwater, local residents can play and stay close to home.
Whitney, the 28-year-old head volleyball coach at Pasco-Hernando Community College, competed in the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association league and played on the United States National indoor team in Hawaii, Oklahoma, Michigan, Spain, Italy, Brussels and points in between. She has ruled many courts since she first set foot in the sand five years ago, booking wins in more than 20 Florida pro-am beach doubles events in women’s and coed pro divisions.
“Volleyball has helped me meet some incredible people,” she said, including her husband. “But I think most people play the sport because it’s fun.”
William G. Morgan, originator of the game of volleyball, probably never imagined a Kim Whitney when he drew the lines for his game in 1895, but if he could see his sport played in the sand today he would surely want her on his side of the net.
Beach volleyball hit the California scene in the 1920s, morphing from a 6-person-team game to a 2-person-team (doubles) game in the ’30s. During the Depression, Americans dragged their skinny picnics courtside, playing in configurations of 4 vs. 4, 3 vs. 3 (triples), and doubles, proving, once again, that the only thing really required for an uplifting volleyball game is not much, which is exactly what many Americans had then.
In 1948, Los Angeles hosted the first beach doubles volleyball tournament with prizes. The winners took home a case of Pepsi. With the 1950s began the era of “Beach Mania.” Doubles tournaments coincided with beauty contests, the progenitors of skimpy bikini contests of the ’80s. The Parks and Recreation Departments of California beaches took up the tournament reins and hosted events through 1983, when the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was established to protect players (translation: show ’em the money) and “preserve the integrity of beach volleyball.” That was the end of volleyball/bikini contests.
But who needs contests with the likes of Kim Whitney taking the court? The Parks & Rec. tour went national in 1982 when Clearwater hosted the first East Coast tournament. And this time the chief sponsor, Miller Brewing Company, tapped its coffers to pony up $69,000 in cash prizes awarded for six tournaments. By the time the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) began its tour in Rio de Janeiro in 1986, beach volleyball players worldwide had received booty from sponsors such as Winston Cigarettes, Olympia Beer, Jose Cuervo Tequila and Bud Light—not exactly wholesome promoters, but then, ever since Mr. Morgan borrowed a tennis net and raised it up on posts, volleyball has been tennis’s unsophisticated little brother. Still, little brothers grow up. In 1993, beach volleyball was designated for Olympic competition, and NBC broadcasted a record ten AVP tour events in a year in which prize money totaled $3.7 million and more than 600,000 people attended AVP tournaments. And the game continues to grow.
“Thirty-nine states have indoor volleyball for kids,” said Dave Carstenson, outdoor commissioner for the United States Association of Volleyball (USAV) Florida Region. “At this point, half of those states now have beach programs for children—up from a quarter last year. All three of the major Florida volleyball tours will be offering junior divisional beach play in 2006 (see box). Additionally, a new winter tour will take place November to February for youth and adults.”
The Florida Winter Beach Volleyball Series, hosted by Sand Spurs Volleyball Club, will commence on Siesta Key in November with successive monthly events on Coquina Beach, Ft. Myers Beach and Sand Key Beach. Entrants may contact Carstenson at email@example.com for information about this series or any other Florida outdoor volleyball event.
Meantime, Alan Hafez, three-time Olympian from the Egyptian National volleyball team, has combined his efforts with other retired Olympians and international players to create the ultimate volleyball venue for players of all levels. His vision, which opened this fall in Clearwater, is a lighted 19-sand-court facility called “Club V Beach.” This $2-million complex will host leagues, tournaments and open play and, with any luck, become a future stop on the AVP tour. A second-phase indoor-court facility and restaurant are projected to open in 2006.
Hafez said Club V attracts players from hours away and “provides members with a competitive yet friendly and fun environment in which to enjoy the game and to participate in social events with other volleyball enthusiasts.”
LOCAL VOLLEYBALL VENUES
Adventure Island “Spike Zone”
Adjacent to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, McKinley Drive, Tampa FL
11 White-sand Courts
Hosts Professional Tournaments and Friendly Amateur Matches
Club V Beach
12901 U.S. Highway 19 N., Clearwater, FL 33764, (727) 540-0222
19 Lighted Sand Courts
Leagues, Tournaments and Open Play for Novice and Experienced Players
8701 Seminole Blvd., Seminole, FL 33772, (727) 393-7616
1 Sand Court
6-person Leagues Tues.-Thurs. Nights
Open Play Mon. & Fri. Nights, Weekdays and Weekends
Treasure Island Municipal Beach
10400 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island, FL 33706
Pinellas County Parks Dept. (727) 464-3347
4 Sand Courts Available for Open Play Weekdays & Weekends
The Undertow Beach Bar
3850 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, FL 33706, (727) 368-9000
Contact: Club Sport of Tampa Bay (727) 895-2582
Sand Volleyball Leagues and Open Play on 2 or 3 Courts
Beach Volleyball Clinics by Nancy Cothron
Director of Manatee Area Volleyball and Saint Stephen’s
Episcopal School Head Volleyball Coach, Bradenton
Individual and Group Lessons Available by Appointment
BEACH VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT WEB SITES
- Amateur Athletic Union Junior Beach Volleyball Tour: www.eteamz.active.com/aaubeach/
- East End Volleyball Series: http://www.eevb.com/
- Florida Beach Volleyball Tour: http://www.flbeachvolleyball.com/
- Hess Express/Zephyrhills Pro-Am Beach Volleyball Series: http://www.digthebeach.com/
- United States Association of Volleyball: www.USAVolleyball.org/beach