Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Weird Volleyball Dynamics

I'm getting better at volleyball. Tonight was the fourth of eight sessions. I actually felt like I was contributing in a positive way.

You may recall that at the first session, almost all the other players were Chinese. At the second session, the big, loud, obnoxious German guy brought all his friends, and suddenly the young, hip, athletic, loud, competitive Germans outnumbered even the Chinese players. At the third session, the Germans and Chinese adults broke off to their own game, leaving me, G., my friend the yogini, three women 10-20 years older than me, and all the Chinese-American high school girls playing a less competitive game together.

This dynamic is becoming a problem. I'm too uncoordinated and too meek to play with the Germans, who tonight I discovered are actually Austrians. Last week, in a bizarre mixed game that happened before the other Austrians arrived, the obnoxious ringleader Austrian sent me into really fun panic attacks; he was serving whenever I was setting/hyperventilating/feeling dizzy.

So tonight, G. was home with a cold and my friend the yogini didn't arrive. That left me alone without a tribe. The Austrians and Chinese adults are right out, too serious and aggressive, too talented. The older women are quite a bit older than I, and all want to chat more than play; I'm not even sure why they come to volleyball rather than going for coffee. Getting them on the court is a perpetual challenge. The lack of focus is extraordinary. The high schoolers want nothing to do with anyone over 20, especially since a newly-arrived older woman made Classic Errors When Dealing with Adolescents this week. New Older Woman showed up for the first time of this 8-week cycle, though she clearly has played many times before, and began treating the high school girls like they were new, explaining rules they well knew and generally being bossy. Had she done this to me, I would've been like, "Yo, it's cool, I've been here for four weeks and I missed that because I'm just warming up tonight." But not so adolescents, who are understandably touchy about such things. Then the New Older Woman was mystified that the High Schoolers wanted nothing to do with her.

G. and I are thinking of switching v-ball nights when these 8 weeks are up. We think a little more structure and leadership from the instructor could make a world of difference, get some better games going, and break up the cliques. Thursday nights have a different instructor...

That said, it is fun.


Larry Jones said...

I have played in many, many pickup volleyball games, and the dynamics are always a factor. One thing I know for sure is you can NOT have bloody cutthroat semi-pros playing in the same game with folks who are just trying to get a little exercise and social interaction. People will get hurt. And you can NOT have cheating, no matter who is in the game. If anyone is allowed to use "soft hands" to impart direction to the ball, the game is ruined.

If there's an instructor or coordinator, that person should segregate the experienced and aggressive players from the rest so everyone can have fun -- which is what life and volleyball is all about, in my opinion. And that person should not only referee, but coach the inexperienced players in basics like setting, blocking, spiking and serving. If that's not happening, yeah -- change volleyball nights.

It's a great game -- loads of fun when you find the right people, fast enough to get a good workout, flexible enough to allow fooling around between serves (Don't mess with the Austrians, though).

PS: If you're playing on hardwood, consider knee pads.

kStyle said...

Hey Larry, nice to hear from another v-ball fan! Thanks for your words of wisdom and experience. You're right, we're not getting any drills from the instructor, even though the blurb in the community ed catalog promised them. I powwowed with G. last night, and we are 90% set on changing to the Thursday night session over the summer.