Posts Tagged ‘volleyball’

Who Brought the Ringer?

Posted: September 20, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
Tags: , , , , , ,

fish school and shark

Erica had to do some mental resets when she played pufferball. The game didn’t have a net. Instead, the players swam in a circle, hitting the ball to each other in a three-dimensional hackey sack match. You had to pass twice before you hit the ball, and you could hit the ball with any part of your body. You had to hit it at the other team. If it went wild, the other team scored a point. From there, the other team had to pass twice and then hit the ball back. If someone flubbed their pass, you scored and got the ball back.

Erica passed to Jory, who passed to Aaron, who set up Erica for the third hit. She knew she was getting more than her share of sets, being the guest and all. She wanted to make them proud. Erica smiled, then tucked what would have been her knees to her belly, snapped her tail out and smacked the ball like a baseball bat. The slap sounded like a gunshot. The ball hit uncle Yurri in the arm and bounced away from him before he could pass it.

“Who taught her that?” Yurri asked. He shook his head. Others were applauding.

Jory slapped tails with Erica, an underwater high-five. She laughed. Aaron swam over and hugged her. “You’re getting the hang of this!” he said.

“I’m a water baby. I spent my whole life swimming.”

Jory looked around for the ball. People were so busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing that no one paid attention.

“I think you’d fit in down here. How do you feel about it?”

Erica’s grin broadened. “Is that a yes?”

“It was always yes. The question’s whether it’ll work.”

Erica pushed his shoulder. “You could’ve said ‘yes’ on the beach, then. Would’ve made the moment a bit more romantic, don’t you think?”

“Yes. Guilty. I didn’t want to get your hopes up before you had a chance—”

“Where did Jory go?” Yurri asked.

Erica and Aaron looked at him. People looked at each other. Yurri and others swam in circles around the group. People started looking.

“Jory?”

“Jory…”

“How far could a dumb ball go?”

Erica let go of Aaron. She kicked upward to get a better view. She felt what would have been hair standing up on her arms. The metaphorical eyes in the back of her head were looking around. She’d felt this before in the field, when twilight fell. When predators came out. The fish the separated from the school always got eaten.

Photo credit: “shark and fish” by Rennett Stowe at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

Sideout

Posted: February 21, 2014 by writingsprint in Poetry
Tags: , ,

Four serving three
POW!
Silence.
The balls sails over.
I go! she shouts,
half in panic,
half self-assured softness.
She smiles. A hit of death is coming up.
A metallic thud and the ball floats up.
Six bodies run in concert.
Three attackers.
Two wings cover.
The setter.
The setter takes the ball
The world pauses again.
A rush as the ball comes
down and because the setters is there,
as if he had never reached to take a step at all.
The ball jumps off his fingers into the air.
Anticipated panic.
The other team runs up, preparing of archangel’s
might to come down. The cover men cover.
Silence.
Except for the left outside hitter, whose world has
become a building, whipping tornado.
Onetwo
Threefour
His arms whip down and spring him into the air. His left arm
points to the floating ball, coming down, as his right arm
whips back into firing position.
GOANGLE!

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.

“Zeroes.”

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.

Lather.
Rinse.
Repeat 15 times.

This is volleyball.

volleyball pacifierOne of the strangest, most awful and growing experiences I ever had was the month I spent wrestling with my angels over whether or not I could win playing volleyball.

I was brought up, or at least taught, to believe in peace, nonviolence, cooperation, generosity, and helping others. Needless to say I got whacked off the field, off the track, and off the court every time I tried to play a sport.

Along came volleyball. Volleyball is the game that I love. When you jump into the air, it feels like you’re flying. When you block a spike, you are the Great Wall of China and your name is DENIAL. When you dig out a ball, you have reached both hands and your head into a great white shark’s mouth to pull out a baby, done it, and patted the shark on the head on the way out. And when you stretch so far after a dropping ball that it feels like your soul is stretching too, and somehow you pop the ball up in the air, that’s when you know God plays volleyball.

So I got into it. I took the beginner’s clinic at the Pacific Beach Rec Center, and I practiced on my own. Winning wasn’t on my radar at first. My sixteen months of playing didn’t compare to the sixteen years or more that everyone else had under their belts. This is San Diego. Kids are playing sports as soon as they can walk. They sell pacifiers with volleyballs on them.

You can only work so hard for so long and stay the same so-called “loser” that you were when you started out. Your head goes through a shift. You know you’re better. It’s time to look at yourself in a different way. It’s a challenge.

People aren’t looking at you like the lovable loser you used to be. You’re a threat. You’re treated like one. People that you thought were friends are smashing the ball on you hard. You want to hate them. You won’t let yourself. You’re the nice guy. You don’t want to become one of those heartless a-holes who used to laugh at you.

I remember asking myself, how can I win without hating anyone? How can I beat them without becoming someone I don’t want to be? There are a lot of people in this world who don’t give a damn. I’m not one of them.

I kept playing. Half the time I fought myself.

My brother told me about a trip he took to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Someone had posted a top 10 list of things that you need to do to win. Number one was, “Let yourself win.” This kept knocking on the back door of my brain asking to be let in.

One day I made the connection. They’re playing hard because that’s the game. What if I were in their shoes? Someone who doesn’t have my hangups, watching someone play, watching them dial it back, because they couldn’t stand what they were doing? I would tell him, no. Dude. Play hard. That’s what the game is all about. Beat me. Playing as hard as you can to beat me is the most respect you could ever show me. If you play better, it makes me play better, and then we all have a better time.

So I did. I don’t know what I did that night. I know that I played better. I had a couple of blocks. I had a good pass. I went for a spike that actually made it over the net. People on both sides of the net clapped and said, “Good job, Matt!” I didn’t even know they knew my name.

That’s victory.

This post is brought to you by the WordPress Daily Post prompt “Victory.”

Winged Foot

If you get a tattoo, make a statement

Yes. I think tattoos are cool, especially the ones that are beautiful artwork. The best ones tell a story. They’re meaningful to the person wearing them, and tell something about them to the world that they want people to know. The most original tattoo I ever saw was Nancy Drew, on the shoulder blade of a friend of mine in a yoga class. After that, there’s a close friend of mine who’s a veteran. He never got himself inked, but he told me he’d thought about it, and would have gotten tank treads wrapped around his arm.

The needles don’t scare me. When I was a ten years old, an allergist stuck me with a dozen needles on one arm, then a dozen in the other, doing skin tests to see what I was allergic to. I stopped crying and made it a point to toughen up after the first six or seven. Four years of allergy shots later, I was well over any fear of needles.

When I was in my early twenties, I found out that a friend of mine, who I’d originally thought was more sweet and innocent than me — and that’s saying a lot — had one. I made the decision, “Hell, if she got one, I’M getting one!” But I never did. When I lived on the west coast, I actually made a choice between getting a body piercing or a tattoo, and chose the piercing. When the time came for me to hear the words, “It’s a boy,” I could still take out the piercing. Those who knew me a long time ago would be surprised about the piercing. When you live in SoCal down by the water, it feels strange not to have one. I eventually took it out anyway, not because I became a father and not because I didn’t like it, but because I played a lot of beach volleyball and I couldn’t keep it clean. It almost got pulled out playing football once, too, when I was being clothesline-tackled right across chest. My eyes bugged out and I half laughed as I thought, “Well, we’ll see what happens next.” Nothing did, thank God.

sunset tattoo

I considered something like this, for Sunset Cliffs in San Diego

Like I said earlier, tattoos should be meaningful, as opposed to something you just do on a lark. That was what stopped me. There was nothing in my life, at the time, that really said, “BANG! THIS IS THE STATEMENT I WANT TO MAKE!” My years in SoCal were pretty laid back. I tossed around getting volleyballs or volleyball netting wrapped around my arms; a beach scene; a sun face. None of them really did it for me. “Tribal” armbands were big then, the jagged black slashes that looked really cool. George Clooney had a great look with those in From Dusk Till Dawn. Everybody had them, though, so they weren’t for me.

So I’m now 40+ years old, and the skin isn’t as tight as it used to be, so maybe that ship has sailed. We’ll see. I did download some artwork from Bullseye Tattoos a couple of years ago: a wolf howling at the moon; a warrior facing a dragon; a wrap of a sleeping dragon; and the Kanji characters for body, mind and soul from a local martial arts studio. Take a look. You’ll get inspired. If I get back in shape, and some stars align for me… we’ll see.

The sunset tattoo is from Tattoo Now.

BOOM!
“SETTER OUT!”
“I GO I GO!”
“Free ball!”
“Over over over!”

karch-kiraly-passing

Karch Kiraly, volley god

For me it’s volleyball. There’s no other sport that feels like you’re flying, when you’re leaping up to spike the ball, and in my case, when you’re praying to God that you didn’t mis-time the jump and wind up missing the ball by half an inch. I’m not even that good at it, but I love, love, love to play it.

Volleyball could be considered controlled chaos. At its best, it’s like a dance, where nobody knows the next move but you make it up as you go. When you do make the right move and your partners do too, it’s like you just created ballet. Until you crush the ball; it’s like a ballet ended with a cannon shot.

It’s a flashy, offensive player’s sport. Who doesn’t like to watch the jump serves and spikes? As a player, though, I love defense even more. I’ll admit I can’t jump serve. Even if I could, I would still love D. Solid defense sets up your offense. It’s also demoralizing as a dam breaking to all those hitters who think they can whack you off the court. My crowning moment was when I learned where to move to pass a ball off a spike, based on the angle of the hitter’s body and the shadow on his arm as he hit the ball. If you wait until he hits it, it’s too late. I barely even saw the ball, but I passed it and it went to the setter.

Swimming would be second. To swim, you need to relax. It seems counter-intuitive for those of us who shoved water past them year after year, trying to muscle their way through the water, but your body floats better when it relaxes, and you breathe better when you’re relaxed, too. Once you learn to swim, you can spend more time snorkeling or scuba diving, exploring another world. Just keep the nets up until we’re back.

If you wanted to spend four months just playing, where would you go? I’ll tell you where I’d go: Las Vegas!

What happens in Vegas...

What happens in Vegas...

In the second part of Drink, Play, F@#k, the main character goes to Vegas to gamble. When he isn’t gambling, he’s recharging his batteries by golfing, and along the way, he starts to pace himself.

Las Vegas is an amusement park for adults. I remember the first time I looked out at the strip from my room at the Bellagio. The fountain show was running. Past that, the huge electronic billboards showed a fizzing bottle of champagne, then flash pictures of sexy people gyrating to a dance beat. I turned to my fiancee and said, “This is good.” Where else can you watch angels get you a bottle of wine, go skydiving indoors, or watch other people fly?

The one difference I would write into the story is volleyball. Golf’s not my game. But volleyball, that’s the closest that I’ve ever felt to flying. Nothing compares to passing a hard driven spike or digging out a hit that you think you’ll never get to. And I’m not even good at it. Hang by the pool in the morning; play volleyball in the afternoon; gamble, see a show or party at night. That’s what fun sounds like to me.

Zen and Volleyball

Posted: February 11, 2011 by writingsprint in postaday2011, postaweek2011, Toastmasters
Tags: , , , ,

I’ll be out of town today and tomorrow, so I won’t be writing anything new today. Instead, for today I’m going to post a “Work with Words” speech that I did for Toastmasters a long time ago, back when I was playing volleyball all the time. This was one of my favorites.

Oom 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.

“Zeroes.”

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.

Lather.

Rinse.

Repeat 15 times.

This is volleyball.