Gillian Cassidy spikes the ball during tournament action at Siesta Key in June. Islander Photo: Kevin Cassidy
Haley Coulter “roofs” an opponent’s spike attempt during tournament action at Siesta Key in June.
Haley Coulter passes the ball as partner Gillian Cassidy movesduring tournament action at Siesta Key in June.
Beach volleyball eludes AMI, explodes across the nation
Ever since William Morgan, an instructor at the YMCA in Holyoke, Mass., invented volleyball in 1895 as a game that would demand less physical contact than basketball, it’s grown in popularity. So much so that it is now considered the second most-popular sport in the world.
No. 1 is soccer, according to volleyball.org.
But more than 46 million Americans play volleyball and approximately 800 million players worldwide play the sport at least once a week.
With the introduction of beach doubles or sand volleyball as a medal sport at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, beach volleyball’s popularity soared. It was the most watched sport at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and was one of the most viewed events at both the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London games.
This explosion is due in part to the growth of the indoor sport among junior and youth players. In Florida alone, there are more than 200 volleyball clubs for players ages 10-18, with many clubs hosting multiple teams per age group.
It’s common knowledge that if you want to improve your indoor game, you include beach volleyball in your schedule. It’s harder to move and jump and to be a successful player in the sand, and a player has to have an all-court game, which, in turn, helps improve indoor play.
Another reason for the surge in popularity is the success Americans have had in the Olympics with Kerri Wash and Misty May-Treanor winning gold in the past three summer games, while the men have won gold in three of the five Olympic games since the introduction of beach volleyball as a medal sport in 1996.
The AVP tour, the most successful professional volleyball tour, reported an increase in its fan base of 48 percent after it made it into the Olympics.
Now that the NCAA has added sand volleyball as an emerging sport, more and more colleges are starting to offer scholarships for the sport, which only adds to the popularity. Florida State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International, Jacksonville University, Webber International and the University of North Florida all field sand volleyball teams and the number of schools offering the sport will only rise in the future.
In fact, Manatee County’s State College of Florida recently completed its first spring sand season, which included one of the largest collegiate beach tournaments, the Fiesta on Siesta on Siesta Key in April. It’s believed to be the first organized beach competition in the country at the junior college level, attracting teams from FSU, University of Louisiana at Monroe, College of Charleston and University of South Carolina.
The tourney gave SCF-Manatee, along with few more two-year junior colleges, a chance to compete in beach doubles.
Former islander Abi VanOstenbridge is entering her second season as a defensive specialist for the Manatees. She paired on the No. 3 doubles team and compiled a 4-1 record during the beach season. Her father, Scott, says she really likes playing on the beach and would love to play at the next level.
There are three area beach volleyball tours that prospective players can use to test their skill. There is the Sunshine State Outdoor Volleyball Association, which runs a tournament a month on Clearwater Beach at Pier 60. Its next tournament is July 20-21. Another is the Florida Beach Volleyball Tour, which held court at Siesta Key in May, but mostly takes place on the East Coast. The biggest is the Dig the Beach series, which is coming to Siesta Key July 13-14 and to Clearwater Beach Aug. 3-4.
The professionals and adults play on Saturdays, while juniors and adult coeds play Sundays.
Locally, the Anna Maria Island Community Center has yet to offer a beach league, but an indoor volleyball family league is ongoing in the gym this summer.
If you’ve never attended a beach volleyball tournament, check in with me next week on Siesta Key. I’m guessing, you’ll be hooked.
There’s great action and great scenery. Location, location, location.
Three teams emerged from pool play during July 6 horseshoe action at the Anna Maria City Hall pits and were left to battle it out for the championship. Sam Samuels and Dennis Vanegas drew the bye and watched as Jerry Disbrow and Ron Pepka edged Bob Heiger and George McKay 23-20 to advance to the finals.
The final was all Disbrow-Pepka, as they rolled to a 22-12 win and earned bragging rights for the day.
July 3 action saw the team of Jerry Disbrow and George McKay earn the only 3-0 record in pool play giving them the day’s outright title.
Play gets underway at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. Warmups begin at 8:45 a.m. followed by random team selection.
There is no charge to play and everyone is welcome.
Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria sports schedule:
July 16 6:30 p.m. Beach Bums vs. Bowes Imaging
July 16 7:30 p.m. Bowes Imaging vs. Southern Greens
July 16 8:30 p.m. Salon Salon vs. Island Real Estate
AMICC adult flag football
July 11 6 p.m. Jessie’s vs. The Feast
July 11 7 p.m. Waterfront vs. Agnelli Pool
July 11 8 p.m. Discount Signs vs. Sato Real Estate
July 11 9 p.m. Slim’s Place vs. Beach to Bay Construction
July 10 6 p.m. Bowes Imaging vs. Miller Electric
July 12 6 p.m. Miller Electric vs. Bowes Imaging
July 10 7 p.m. LPAC vs. Air & Energy
July 12 7 p.m. Bistro vs. LPAC
July 10 8 p.m. Island Dental vs. LPAC