If you haven’t played, coached or perhaps know someone who played or coached high school volleyball, you just don’t understand.
Volleyball isn’t simply about getting the ball over the net. Bump, set and spike is the foundation. However, there is so much more.
I’m a bit biased when it comes to the sport, because I played it at Lynwood High in southeast Los Angeles.
Lynwood wasn’t exactly a volleyball power, but it was good back in the early to mid 1990’s. All the credit goes to coach Carl Buggs, who built the girls and boys programs. (Buggs left Lynwood for Long Beach Poly to be the girls basketball coach in 1996. The Jackrabbits just won
back-to-back DI state championships against Berkeley).
I wasn’t always a volleyball supporter. I was a baseball player my freshman and sophomore year, until all of my friends — already on the team — convinced me to try out. It’s a sport that definitely grows on you.
As a teenager, I watched the USA Men’s National Team and was amazed by the skill and power with which those guys played the game. (By the way, Lloy Ball might be back in the mix.) I followed the AVP tour and learned Karch Kiraly (and is funny pink hat) was the sports’ godfather. (Farewell Karch.)
In the summer, I’d drive 15 minutes down the 105 freeway to Manhattan Beach with my friends to play “doubles” on the sand. In the gym, we’d practice diving for free balls just for kicks.
As a setter, I loved putting variations on the famed “X” play. On a perfect pass, and if ran with precision, the play looked like the water show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Guys would come from every direction. One would jump for a quick up the middle, another right behind him, another for shoot, meanwhile I’d set the back row hitter. We called it a “pipe.” Of course, it never worked, but it looked good.
My friends and I talked a whole other language.
We thought the word “Mikasa” sounded so cool. We used terms like Pancake, Chicken Wing and Six Pack. We could “pepper” all day. We tried hitting “10-footers” and “chesters” and celebrated if you “Roofed” someone, or “pounded” the ball, or if you got a “waterfall” on the opposing block. There was nothing like winning a “joust” at the net, or setting a “quick” with just one hand, your thumb and two fingers, arm extended at the height of a jump. If you did it right, you wouldn’t be called for a “lift.”
All this was nearly 10 years ago for me. I’m sure some of those terms have changed. I’m also sure a lot of it remains the same.
But I’ve learned one thing from playing the sport and now covering it for the Times: Volleyball is a community with almost a cult-like following and not much else. On high school campuses now, volleyball probably doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It sure doesn’t with the average sports fan. Some may disagree with that, but c’mon, let’s face reality.
I agree with some points made by my colleague Mike McGreehan (read below), a veteran of the Bay Area sports scene. But I think his argument depends on what side of the hill your school is on. For example, ACCAL and EBAL volleyball are too different worlds.
I am no expert. I never played club ball (didn’t have the money) or college (didn’t have the talent). But I did play in high school and had a blast. I still have volleyball’s “us against the world” mentality, as silly as that may sound.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that volleyball, boys and girls, will always struggle to claim the spotlight, but it’s not a lost cause.
At least it’s not for me.