Tuesday, October 16, 2007

the addiction

Although I did recently play in a beach volleyball tournament (and that is the topic of this post) the truth is that for the first time in many years I am playing the same amount of volleyball that my wife would like to see me play: not much :) It's not that Kate doesn't like the sport, actually she is getting quite good herself. It is simply that volleyball eats time, and it has eaten a LOT of mine. It's not hard to see her point. What girl doesn't want a little bit of a guy's time. That brings me to another good thing about Brizzy, a few weeks ago I found a little rec. one-night-a-week two’s league that she and I have joined as a team. The club is a ten minute bike ride from home. We’re having a good time and we’re playing against men’s teams and doing well. Generally speaking, I don't like co-ed sport. It is always awkward. In fact, unless Kate is playing with me (and enjoying it) I will almost never play rec or co-ed volleyball. There is no incentive, I would rather sleep. With her on the court though it's a different story. I find it really fun watching her improve and enjoy the game I love. Here she is in front of the set up on a Monday night. And the season runs 12 months of the year, outdoors!

I have no illusions about the fact that I am a ‘retired’ beach player. I no longer want to seriously train or improve. In the last decade I have put in my time. Fortunately I now find that I'm not getting worse in any hurry which puts me in the comfortable position of being able to just go out and play once in a while at a good level and enjoy it with no pressure. The fact that Kate has always been an athlete herself means that she understands what competition means to me. For the most part, she has tolerated the 'addiction' remarkably well. In fact, it's pretty clear that she wants to see me enter a handful of ‘real’ tournaments every year. Maybe it’s because she knows how excited I get about it, maybe because she wants to see me get in good shape again, or maybe she just wants a good excuse to go to the beach for the day. Who cares?

I'm not the only addict, many of my friends in the Canadian BV community have it too and it was not very difficult to find some locals with the same disease. Actually, beach volleyball players here are strangely similar to the boys back home. Like in Canada the sport is far from a main-stream so the community is small and tight. It is not a good way to make money. The AVP in the US has some wealthy ‘lifers’ as does the international tour (FIVB) but the reality is that a very small number of people (mainly Brazilian) share all of the prize money and the rest are just getting by weekend to weekend, desperately seeking sponsorship, or often spending a lot of their own money.

Okay, to the point. Last weekend I played the tour opener here. It was an oddly familiar experience. A 5:30 wake up meant I was dressed, packed, well fed, and on the beach looking at this pretty view by 7:30.

The anticipation during these mornings is one of my favorite things about the whole thing. At 55 minutes, the drive to this beach was shorter than the many similar drives I’ve taken in Canada. If I look a little overdressed it’s because of habit. That is just how tournament mornings are done, regardless of temperature.

The tournie was played in a ‘King of the Beach’ format (my first one) meaning that each player entered individually and each game with a different partner. This format not only gave the foreign guy a chance to play with locals but it also allowed for young players to play with experienced volleyball vets. If ten years ago, in Ontario, one of the good guys was ‘forced’ by the tournament format to play with me, give me tips, and encourage me to play well, I would have loved it. Instead, Hubbard and I got the 1-2-barbecue from the old bastards over and over and over again for a few summers without so much as a single word of encouragement. It’s was cruel way to learn the game.

Things are better now. On Saturday I played seven games on ‘show court’. A few of them were a little too close for comfort but the result was a seventh place finish of the thirty-two players; fairly respectable. And more importantly I met the whole local crowd. The faces were all new but the whole thing seems so familiar I feel like I have known them for years. Anyway, it will now be straight foreward to find a partner for a future tournie or two.

Kate took some quality game shots, here's two:

And it feels nice to be reminded of just how small the volleyball world is. The guys I have met here that have traveled internationally know the Canadians that have done the same: Binstock, Reader, Lelliot, Simic all came up in conversation. Everybody knows VanHuizen. Matty Diets and T-Bone have played right here in Queensland. I played a game with a kid whose mother and two grand parents represented Poland in volleyball years ago. They will likely know my dad through the sport. Kate and I have now met some very friendly and interesting people here because of my addiction, you’ll probably hear more about them in later posts.

They also have good quality gear here. I have never met an athlete that didn't like good gear.

One more thing: A real personal dream came true for me this weekend. There was a MacDonalds about a hundred meters from show court! You can see those beautiful golden arches just left of the blue flag in this picture :)

Yet another addiciton. And I'm not the only one:

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