Volley Ball

I have noticed that my life has sort of broken up into chunks, stretches dominated by a special interest or activity. The years from 1965 to 1980 were the science fiction fandom years. 1980 to 1995 seem to have been the volley ball years. There is a web link for volley ball; however this page is about me and volleyball.

I sort of fell into volleyball. It all started when I was working at Lincoln Labs in the late 70’s just after I had put in a stint as president of NESFA. As part of the work our entire group went down to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where we were doing field testing of our Radar system. Fort Sill is an interesting place, in its way. The term, “Armpit of America”, springs to mind. When you leave the base the first mile is all pawn-shops, pool-halls, bars, and adult entertainment. Barren sleaze. The base is mostly temporary housing built in WW I. The upshot was that you had this group of programmers, radar technicians and engineers, and the like forcibly transplanted from MA. The experience made for an intense sense of communal togetherness.

For reasons unknown to me now we took up volleyball as the group sport and expression of social life. When we got back home the group continued to play volleyball at lunch, after work, and on weekends. It was really an expression of group bonding I guess. In any case, NESFA and fandom disappeared from my consciousness.

Understand now, that this was rank jungle ball — none of us had any exposure to rules or training. As it happened, an old friend of mine, Bob Boudreau, was working at the Lab at the time for the same body shop that I was working for. It turned out that Bob used to run a VB league. He hadn’t been playing for some time, but he started joining us is some of our lunch-time and after work games. In due course, the VB enthusiasm dissipated somewhat — the decline was hastened by management’s lack of enthusiasm for people using their lunch hour for playing ball and then coming in sweaty and hungry.

Some of us, however, needed our VB fix in a big way, and Bob turned out to be our entry to the outside world. We had been a self contained VB universe. Bob pointed us towards recreational groups that had open volleyball. Some of descended en masse on a open recreational game in Lexington. This was an eye opener in two ways — one was the discovery that people besides us played VB, and we learned about real volley ball. There were people there that actually knew how to bump and set and hit really hard.

One thing lead to another and I began to learn how to play the game right. We found other places to play. By this time most of the group had sort of dropped out of the volley ball mania, but I was hooked. In due course, a place called Tennis 128 started a refereed summer league and Bob organized a team for the league which I was part of. We did fairly well, but got eliminated in the play-offs. The following year we put together another team and won in the play-offs, and that is how I got my first athletic trophy at the ripe old age of 48!

Since then I have played in a several leagues, in tournaments, and in stronger open pick-up games. For a while Bob and I were part of a ragamuffin team called The Joy Of Sets in a League sponsored by the Boston Ski and Sports Club. The Joy of Sets was one of the first C level teams in New England to play a 6-2 offense. Without going into the sordid technical details let me say that the 6-2 offense requires a number of things that we didn’t have — such as good passing, good setting, and a firm grasp of position. Our version of the 6-2 resembled the proverbial Chinese fire drill. But we persevered, gamely struggling to master a game that was above our heads.

Eventually The Joy of Sets folded. Somehow Bob convinced Esan Godl, a former Olympic player for Turkey and the coach at Harvard, to coach a bunch of us in a training program. Mostly the bunch of us were over 30. The experience must have been intesting for Esan — he was used to coaching people with youth and talent. We didn’t go too far in those departments. None the less, I learned a lot — thank you Esan.

Bob went on to run a lot of volleyball activities — training programs, sponsored teams, and leagues. One of the leagues was a Sunday night C/C++ league. He asked me to put in a pickup team which I did. I gathered together some of the people who wanted to play but weren’t on a team and formed a team called Heart Breakers. The theory was that they were going to break the hearts of the other teams. Mostly, though it was mine that got broken.

For a couple of years Heart Breakers muzzed around in the bottom of the league. As time went on, however, something interesting happened. I had started with a collection of ragamuffins. However I kept looking for players and one by one I recruited better players. Sometime I just found them; sometimes I picked up the best player from a team that was breaking up. In due course Heart Breakers was a power house that dominated the league for several years. I have a bunch of tropies, T-shirts and mugs to show for it all. I finally folded the team in 1995.

For the past several years I play twice a week in a local group in Concord which is sort of mixed. It is mostly C players with a scattering of B players and some virgins. I am, ahem, known there as Dr. Slime. As you may imagine, I do not have the reflexes, the power, or the jumping ability of a 20 year old — or a 40 year old. However the old bod and the old brain still work. My forte is an astounding mixture of placement shots. I hits em where they aint. If they expect me to dump the ball I pound it; if they’re treating me with respect I bring out the old sleaze shot. As Winston Churchill said, “Age and treachery will win out over youth and skill every time.”. It’s sort of neat, being a 60 year old jock.

This page was last updated June 23, 1996