Vincent Cheung

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The universal language of volleyball

When I tell people that I'm going to go play volleyball and they ask "with who" and I say "I donno, I'm just going to play", they give me this funny look. I guess they aren't familiar with drop-in / pick-up / open gym volleyball. It's where a gym is free to anyone that wants to play and people go there and play volleyball. Usually you have to pay a bit to play, like $3 - $7 usually, and then you play for like 2 - 4 hours.

I like going to random open gyms b/c you get to play with a lot of different people and meet new people. It's not however, generally recommended unless you're at a certain skill level. You can generally tell very quickly (like literally 30 seconds) if someone can play or not. There are many different things you have to do in volleyball and none of them are natural. If you haven't been coached before, it's very obvious. Generally, with good pick-up volleyball, there is little tolerance for bad players. If you don't know how to play, you won't get any sets and you'll get shunned. Call them asses, elitists, snobs, or whatever, but volleyball is very much a team sport and one weak link can ruin it for the other 11 players. You have to play at your skill level. Different pick-up volleyball has different skill levels, play at the appropriate level. You don't invite an illiterate person to a literary book club.

The cool thing I realized Sunday when I played at City Beach again, was the universal language of volleyball. I go on the court, I don't say a word, and I just start hitting in the hitting line (toss the ball to the setter, he/she sets, you spike it over the net). With complete strangers. Actions speak louder than words.

Then, when we're actually playing, a random group of 6 people go on the court on each side and people just know how to play. The defence sets up the same as anywhere else I've played, setters set, hitters hit, blockers block. It's pretty amazing. Complete strangers, yet everything flows automatically.

I remember playing with Irina back in Seattle last year at the Pro Club and it was the same with her. Even though she was from Germany, she knew exactly where to go, what to do, and no one had to tell her what to do or where to go, she just did it. Pretty amazing. I would love to just go to a random place, like in Europe, South America, or Asia, go on the court, and just play with complete strangers. There'd probably be a little bit of adjusting in positions, but I bet that even without saying anything, I could just blend in. That'd be awesome.

I went to the Campbell Community Center yesterday. Saw some familiar faces from the Sunnyvale clinic and City Beach (volleyball is a small community). It wasn't so good though. I got bored. There was one exciting moment though. The middle court was playing 2's (I would have played if I had a partner) and then all of a sudden, one of the guys starts yelling and picks up a chair and egging another guy to have a fight. People broke it up and the guy left, but not without a lot of shouting and profanity. I have no idea what instigated this and I have NEVER seen anything even remotely like that before. People generally have quite good sportsmanship in volleyball. This guy was like totally a basketball player converted into a volleyball player from the way he dressed.

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