Zen and the Art of Volleyball

Posted: September 3, 2013 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
Tags: , , , ,

"Volleyball Net" by Blue Zen Photography

“Volleyball Net” by Blue Zen Photography

I’m cheating a little today. I’m out of town for work, so there hasn’t been any time to write anything new. So, here’s something old: my old “work with words” speech from Toastmasters.

“Om” is the sound made by Buddhists as they meditate. They believe this is the sound of the universe. In the same way, the call of the server announcing the score sets the tone for the next series.

The server holds up the ball and says, “Zeroes.” Neither team has scored. The beginning. Potential is limitless. This court is a canvas with sand for paint and our feet for brushes.

“Five serving two.” The server’s team has five points, and the receiving team has two. The five reminds us of 15, the score where we win. Five wants to take command. Two feels the tempo picking up, the need to seize control from five.

“17-16.” Barns are burning. Tornadoes rip through Kansas. The Jets and the Sharks are having a rumble in West Side Story. Hearts are pounding and pulses are racing. The server’s team has 17 points and the receiving team has 16. Normally you win at 15, but you have to win by two. This is the sudden death overtime of volleyball, and nobody fights harder than when they are cornered.


Potential is limitless. Serve the ball with the gentle tap of a hand, a quick whip of an arm, or the thunder of muscle. It will sound like the pop of a child’s toy or a cannon boom on the 4th of July.

To the server, I say: root your back leg like a tree. As you serve, lean forward like the tide. Your weight will enter into the ball as you swing, and send it flying.

To the jump server, I say: you and the ball will dance as you fly into the air. You fly up to meet it, and then strike, and send it like a meteor back to earth.

As a serve receiver, flit to the ball as the bumblebee to her flower. Once there, sink into the ground as the mountain joins the Earth. Then shall your foundation be strong and your pass be true.

The ball is passed, and there is silence.

Like chaos and harmony, the ball floats gently through the air while hitters run forward and passers move back into cover position. Hearts beat once, and the ball comes down.

“Set me set me set me!” Chaos once more as the hitters shout for the ball.

Hearts beat once more. The setter is called the quarterback of volleyball, because he controls where the ball goes on the court. I think he is a bird. Other players remain near their positions. The setter hides behind other players during the serve, then floats to the net once the ball is in the air. He flies to where the ball’s passed to, though the ball should land in the nest of his hands without him taking a step.

He sights the ball. It touches his hands–it does not rest there–and he pushes it away like a magician lifting a dove out of an egg. This magician can set back, set quick, or set up.

The setter puts the ball in the air. The cover players hold their breath and watch the other team shift.

To the hitter, I say, raise your hands like you would catch the ball. Sight along one arm like a rifleman along the barrel. Draw your other arm back like the string of a bow. Release the bow.

With the grace of a dove and the wicked force of a wrecking ball, the hitter leaps into the air, whips his arm back and then down again. The slap of a hand hitting leather booms, again and it sounds like the 4th of July again.

The slap’s twin booms a split-second later. Blockers aren’t buildings. With their arms raised and their leap timed with the hitter, they can be cliffs, and even a cliff laughs at a wrecking ball.

The cover players leap under the ball as it comes back down. The ball pops up, passed to the setter.

Repeat 15 times.

This is volleyball.

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