I'm turning into a volleyball snob (+ lots of history)

Here's some pre-rant history -- I started playing volleyball at 14 in a tournament at my high school. There was no high school boys team, so I fell in love with the sport by playing in this tournament once a year for four years. I was never coached, so I didn't know what I was doing at first, but by my senior year, my team was ok, and I think we finished in the top ten. When I came to Penn State as an undergrad, I was starving to play more often, and found a group of guys who would play on the asphalt court (seriously -- asphalt, whose idea was that?) outside North Halls. I was not as good as the other players, but I was willing to learn. I remember almost getting in a fist fight with a guy I hardly knew, because he didn't like playing with me because I wasn't as good as he was. We didn't come to blows, but let's just say neither of us went out of our way to say hi to each other after that. I told everyone who would listen that if they just gave me some advice instead of yelling at me, I would try to get better. By the time I was a junior, I started playing pretty regularly on the "Diffraction Spikes" -- the astronomy department team led ably by Lee Carkner. Lee was great as a captain -- he was willing to take anyone on the team and give them pointers and help them to improve. I think I took a big jump forward those last two years at Penn State playing with Lee.

When I moved to Virginia, I started playing pick-up games at a local gym, and wound up playing in the city league. I was so desperate to play, as always, that I would play anywhere, anytime, with anyone. I played in the B league on a horrible men's team (one guy was a soccer coach, and at random times, he would head the ball just to make himself laugh), I played on a bad B co-ed team where I think one of the women quit because of me (more on why she quit later). I eventually wound up on the "Fruit Eating Bats" (never got an explanation of where that name came from), and played with an ex-high school coach named Lance. Lance gave me some more tips, and along with that and just playing more frequently, I think I took another step forward.

Volleyball has always been both a stress reliever and an addiction with me. If I know a game is going on somewhere in my vicinity, I will usually do whatever I can to play. In CVille, when I dropped off of my co-ed team, I started a co-ed team in the lowest division with me and 5 beginners. It was picnic level, but it was another chance to play once or twice a week, so it was fine with me. It was also the only time I've ever been able to get Shannon to play, and although she denies it, she was actually pretty good.

Since moving back to State College, I have probably played more often than ever before. Gordon Richards got me started at the YMCA, where we play pick-up games every Tue/Thu. I've been playing there for 4.5 years now -- I don't think anyone else among the regulars has been playing there as consistently as I have for as long as I have. It's very cyclical, there have been weeks where we struggled to get 5 players, and there have been times where we would have 20 people show up for 1 court, and we've had to rotate teams on and off the court. We've had nights where most players couldn't hit the ball over the net, and we've had nights where everyone was playing their A game, and it was more competitive than some of the leagues I've been in. Unfortunately, we've hit a bad stretch at the YMCA, hence this post. But again, more background is necessary.

I should give my philosophy here. Because I've never had a coach and credit a lot of improvement I've been able to make to people giving me pointers, I'm always willing to help any beginner interested in getting better. My philosophy of playing is very offense oriented -- I am agressive and will hit the ball hard at every opportunity. I don't believe in hitting finesse shots like dinks or dumps unless absolutely necessary. This is what gets me in trouble, some people believe that playing this way isn't "smart", because its a higher risk play than hitting dinks. But like most things, my feeling is being aggressive hitting is high risk, high reward. It's much easier to defend a dink than a hard driven line shot. This is why Janet quit that co-ed team back in CVille (she thought I hit too many shots in the net or out of bounds). I will admit that I didn't have a .500 hitting percentage, but the only kills we usually got in games were mine. If I'm hitting more errors than kills, I'll be the first to admit that it's time to change tactics, but I always start every game planning to play aggressively -- high risk, high reward.

Ok, so now it is time for the rant. Like I said, with volleyball, it is anytime, anyplace, any game. However, I have finally gotten to the point where I have enough opportunities to play and have played with some great players, I'm less willing to play with newbies. For the past few months at the YMCA, there have been a number of newbies that have been driving a lot of the regulars away. The big problem isn't their lack of skill, but their absolute unwillingness to accept any constructive criticism. You try to give them pointers about where to position themselves, how to hit the ball, etc., and they get annoyed. It has gotten to the point where it can even be dangerous. If you go after a ball in an aggressive manner, if you are expecting that it is your ball (and it is), and they are going after the ball (when it isn't theirs) and you run into each other at high speed, it can be bad. One of the newbies ran into Frank about 20 times in one night, and he finally snapped after the 20th time.

(This post got delayed by two weeks because of work -- time to pick up where I left off).

I played for about 45 minutes last night, and it was pretty sad. Only six of us showed -- Jason, Frank, and Steve got there early and were playing with two noobs, and I showed up late to make it 3 on 3. Steve probably was able to do a better job than anyone else getting the beginners to take *some* advice, but both of them were still completely out of control. Not surprising that a bunch of the other regulars decided to stay away. Once the league season starts again in September, I may really quit the YMCA for good.


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