December 6, 2023

“Set One” — Lesson One

For seasoned athletes, regardless of age and a relentless clock, the crucial is to remain the course. There needn’t be an expiration date stamped on the psyche, both self-imposed or by public affirmation. Put one other method, if one enjoys a wholesome thoughts and physique, if joints nonetheless flex with relative ease and luxury, it is attainable to play till Medicare kicks in, and for a lot of, properly past that venerable age. For its many devotees, it really is a sport for the ages! The sport of the excessive internet, a remarkably high quality, vigorous and aggressive sport, when performed properly, when performed by the foundations. The uninitiated want solely watch school volleyball or skilled seaside or Olympic volleyball.

As an instance and to quote an exemplary living proof, Steve and Gigi have performed for ages, since 1974 to be correct. The good recreation continues to eat their disposable leisure time. For them, it is a form of obsession, and one which has continued unabated for greater than 40 years. Now at age 72, Steve, and 68, Gigi, they’re nonetheless in its grip.

Obsession is an apt description. In a method, all of it started on the bell, a phone bell, and like a present between extremes, it appears at all times to race between foreboding and hopeful anticipation. Spurred by that opening bell, they quickly turned prizefighters fired with ardour, roped in, initially by the concept, however in the long term, consumed by the sport itself, obsessed.

The ringing phone was loud and insistent. Steve refused to maneuver. Obtrusive with annoyance in her eyes, Gigi put down a e-book and walked shortly, nearly ran to subdue the obnoxious factor.

“Shall I simply get it?” she requested with extravagant sarcasm. “Sure, hullo!”

Steve paid no consideration at first, irritated by the instrument’s persistence, its energy to interrupt.

“Oh, hello John. What? Yeah, we’re each high quality, simply hanging out. How’s Joan? That is good.”

Steve’s consideration moved slowly, as did his gaze, to a dialog that was one-sided and cryptic. Her eyes widened. She turned. She paced.

“You suppose we must always do what?” Gigi requested into the instrument, a query wrapped in incredulity, but with a rising degree of pleasure. Enthusiasm appeared to spice up the present working via the wire.

“What,” he stated. Who’s that?” The query fell flat as if inaudible, trivial.

“Be part of a league? {Couples}, co-ed. Yeah, I performed just a little in highschool. Steve? No. I do not suppose so. Possibly at picnics, or within the yard with household.”

“What did I do within the yard?” he requested. One other feckless query, no reply anticipated or given.

“That sounds simply nice,” Gigi stated with rising pleasure. “The place? And it begins in January? That is subsequent month! Yeah, yeah… train, one thing we are able to do as {couples} with buddies. OK, nice! Alright, we’ll discuss on Monday and you may tell us the time and schedule.” She hung up the cellphone.

“Was that John O’Connor?” Steve requested. “What had been you speaking about? What league?”

“I simply love the concept,” Gigi replied. “Yeah, it was John. You and I, the O’Connors and the Keegan’s are going to play volleyball in a co-ed league. The six of us. We begin subsequent month. We’ll play at a north aspect faculty. It is close to Sherman on Inexperienced Tree Highway.”

“Wait a minute,” Steve started. “We have by no means performed. We do not know the sport. Have they got strict guidelines? Are the opposite groups within the league skilled, proficient? How are we going to try this?”

“Ach… don’t be concerned,” stated Gigi. “I performed at school, and we’ll study. We’ll get higher. It will be nice enjoyable. We’ll have train, time with buddies. It will be terrific. I am actually wanting ahead to this. Aren’t you?”

“Volleyball,” he stated, a robust notice of apprehension in his tone. “A league,” he continued, a heavy sigh punctuating. And that was the sum complete of any objection or argument he might need provided in opposition. However, throughout the privateness of his ideas, there was this: “I am married for, what, 4 or so months. I am simply getting used to issues. Now I am in a volleyball league. How lengthy will this final. My god, life’s a runaway freight prepare; it strikes alongside method too quick!”

Regardless of an inauspicious starting, reluctance on the a part of at the least one participant, their volleyball-playing profession, one that will final for 40 years and past, started in 1974.

It was in early September of that yr. Six novices appeared on a wood-plank ground on the gymnasium of a north aspect Milwaukee faculty, some nervous, some calm and assured. They lined up, three in entrance and three within the again row. They knew that a lot. The opposition received the primary service. The ball was a meteor, one thing shot from a cannon. One of many six made contact with the ball, palms up, lifting the volleyball a number of toes skyward. It dropped to the ground, between back and front rows of gamers. Even the ball appeared embarrassed.

A shrill whistle wrenched their collective consideration from the shock of the serve and its feckless receipt to the referee’s ladder of authority. “Unlawful hit,” the referee shouted. She descended, checked out every of the six in flip and requested, “Has any of you ever performed volleyball earlier than?” The query was wound in a thread of astonishment.

“Uh, not likely. I imply, a few of us performed just a little in highschool, however that was some time in the past.” The reply got here from Gigi.

“Effectively,” the referee started, with a nod of apology to the opposing crew, now standing and staring on the neophytes, arms akimbo, a glance of supreme annoyance on their collective expression. “The very first thing you need to find out about league volleyball, and the foundations that apply, is that you simply obtain a service together with your arms outstretched like this, arms clasped collectively in some method.” She demonstrated the “passing” approach, tossing a volleyball to every in flip in order that they may study the right arms and arms configuration. “And once you set the ball to your hitter, it’s possible you’ll not catch and throw the ball, however fairly… properly, let me present you.” She demonstrated the “setting” approach.

None of them remembers that first outing with any sense of pleasure or satisfaction, as they had been destroyed, unremittingly. They expressed because of that sort and affected person referee, after which to the opposing crew members, as they slunk away from the courtroom that first, fateful night of league volleyball. They could not have scored a single level, until their opponents made an error. Even that chance is misplaced — in all probability by design — to the ingredient of reminiscence that protects one’s fragile psyche.

“Set Two” — The Delivery of “Poet’s Delight”

Steve met brothers Mike and Jimmy Keegan at a day camp way back. The 4 of them — two units of younger brothers — had been all shut in age, and a long-lasting friendship between and amongst them started nearly immediately. Little did they know, then, how volleyball would bond their friendship much more tightly.

At 8:00 PM or so the next day, Thursday, the phone introduced its summons, inserting as at all times to Steve’s ears a tone of urgency, probably fomenting unpleasantness. As ordinary, he remained unmoved. Gigi raced towards the repulsive instrument. “Hullo.”

Gigi’s audible half of the dialog was as ordinary provocative, inflicting Steve to put apart a novel. She started, “Hello Mike. They’re? You are kidding. I did not know that. Wow, that is nice. And so they’re prepared to work with us? Oh, that is terrific. When? Saturday! The place?”

“Huh?” Steve requested. A uncommon response, not identified for laconic discourse.

Returning to the lounge, the echoing “Huh” and Steve, Gigi stated, “Jimmy and Carol are wonderful volleyball gamers. They have been enjoying league volleyball for years. That is what Mike known as to inform us.”

“Yeah,” Steve responded. What does that imply for us?”

“They’re prepared to educate us, educate us tips on how to play, tips on how to bump and set. Drills. We’re assembly them at (a west aspect Center Faculty) on Saturday at 11:00 within the morning. The six of us… and Jimmy and Carol in fact. That is simply nice!”

Steve stated, “Yeah, however… “

“I am calling Joan,” stated Gigi, as she walked away from his unheeded starting of a protest, a questioning of any Saturday plans they could have made, obligations. Steve’s mouth remained open, silent and ineffectual, his hand raised, index finger pointing upward, a mime hailing a taxi.

Saturday arrived. Steve and Gigi, having donned shorts and sweat pants, T-shirts and sneakers, motored off to the college, named for a well-known poet. There have been eight gathered on the ground of the “borrowed” gymnasium. They greeted each other. The ladies chatted. The boys had been keen to start “the lesson,” extra so the bodily train portion of “volleyball camp 101.”

Jimmy seized everybody’s consideration with out preamble. In a commanding voice he started, “First let me present you the fitting strategy to bump-pass a volleyball. You possibly can follow this with one another, or in opposition to a wall. It is an incredible drill. I counsel you do that loads.” He demonstrated. “This is the way you obtain a serve. It is actually essential to move the ball accurately to your setter. Keep in mind, all of it begins with the move. I imply, in case you move the ball accurately to the setter, she, or he, can then set to one in every of your hitters. When you do it proper, in case you begin with a superb move, the remaining flows simply. You will rating factors.”

They drilled, and drilled that first day of follow. They handed to 1 one other, handed in opposition to partitions to themselves. For Steve — the wall, a storage roof, the aspect of a constructing, his spouse, Gigi — all turned frequent coaching companions.

Carol was, nonetheless is a wonderful setter. She demonstrated. “Body the volleyball like this.” She set to herself, arms simply above her head, framing, head tilted towards the ceiling. “In a method you kind of catch the ball utilizing primarily your thumbs, index and center fingers. Bend your knees barely when doing this. Your physique kind of acts like a torsion spring. Your arms and arms — in a single fluid movement — meet the ball and ship it as much as the hitter. No, no,” she coached, reacting to 1 who tried the approach poorly. “Flex your wrists like so. They too obtain the ball in a form of spring motion, as if catching and passing in the identical movement.”

The remainder of the novices practiced the approach. Drilling and passing and setting to 1 one other, forwards and backwards, again and again. “OK,” stated Carol. Let’s attempt to play a recreation. Jimmy and I’ll stand the six of you.”

“What!” stated Steve, reacting in shock amazement. That is not truthful.” It was. They murdered the “new children,” the 2 of them, beating them simply, embarrassingly so. “Good god,” Steve stated to Gigi and their 4 companions. “They’re actually good. Unbelievable.” Trite, however the one phrases that appeared in a position to escape Steve’s flabbergasted mind. “I imply, holy mom of Henry Wadsworth, they beat hell out of us. Simply the pair of them!”

The follow classes went on for weeks, stretching into months on a succession of Saturdays. They practiced and drilled and practiced some extra. Ultimately, they, the six novices, started to “get it,” to grasp after which execute the passing, setting and hitting strategies. After which they practiced the overhand serve, or the underhand or sidearm service, and, in fact, receipt of service. They practiced “digging” the ball, or receiving and sending aloft a hard-driven serve, or successful, spike or kill, the latter time period now used most generally in volleyball circles, particularly by skilled announcers. All of them really wished to learn to play, the fitting method — not like “yard” hacks who “carry” the ball or obtain service with feckless, against-the-rules open-handed lifts — however like “actual” volleyball gamers, Olympians and school varsity gamers and seaside volleyball execs. They by no means stopped practising and enjoying, till — like so many who’ve fallen in love with the sport — all six had been hopelessly hooked.

The brand new crew of six continued to play within the Wednesday evening league, truly starting to win matches, not many, however a number of. They discovered a great deal of trivia about volleyball, the online and the courtroom, its dimensions. The online is about 8-feet excessive, or to be exact, 7′ 11-5/8″ for males, 7′ 4-1/8″ for ladies. The courtroom is roughly 60-feel lengthy, 30-feet huge.

As they started to amass talent from hours of follow and drilling, their confidence grew, together with a sure degree of bravado. They determined to call that first crew. Due to the training expertise, and since the college’s title appeared to a few of them remarkably apparent, they dubbed themselves, “Poet’s Delight.”

Steve doubted whether or not the namesake would have been proud; extra importantly, they had been happy with themselves, a delight of lions able to problem rivals and to pursue their quarry relentlessly. They’d develop into emboldened, fearless, a band of huge cats, sturdy and proud. The brand new crew wished an emblem of hard-won talent and willpower, an emblem of collective delight. “Wait! T-shirts! We’ve got to have crew uniforms,” introduced John with authority.

Quickly that they had crew jerseys, inexperienced and white “uniforms” with the newly adopted title emblazoned on left chest place in white lettering. Every had a quantity on the again in eight-inch excessive print, utilizing heat-sealed numerals. They had been magnificently attired for battle. Now they not solely had the coaching, the acquired talent, the chutzpah and coronary heart, that they had the look. Uniforms, unity of goal, precision and a eager sense of momentum, a bravado that lasted till the subsequent time they had been roundly trounced by an opposing crew.

The crew that vanquished theirs, on one memorable event contained a outstanding oddity. All had been conscious of it, nevertheless it was Steve, at all times shiny and observant, who was prepared to present voice to his crew’s collective astonishment. He discretely identified the anomalous particular person. “See that man? His title is Milan, I feel. Have you learnt how outdated he’s?”

“Uh, no,” John replied. “However he is actually a heckuva lot older than the remainder of us.”

“He is in his mid-forties,” Steve continued.

“Come on,” stated John. “I imply, he appears to be like loads older than us, however mid-forties. Can somebody that outdated actually nonetheless play league volleyball. I imply, he is their finest participant. He is distinctive. What a hitter!”

“He is about 46,” stated Steve. “That is what one in every of his teammates informed me.”

“Holy jumpin’ up and down,” stated John. “That is unbelievable. Do you suppose we’ll nonetheless be able to enjoying volleyball at his age? I imply, that man performs like he is 26, not 46. Good god!”

Steve pulled a quizzical face, shrugged and shook his head. “Who is aware of,” he stated, as we each turned to stare at and admire that “outdated man,” maybe the most effective participant both of them had ever seen, reside and in individual. And he and his crew had simply overwhelmed Steve’s crew flat, making it look method too straightforward.

However then, within the following week’s match, “Poet’s Delight” rebounded. They regained confidence, momentum and the successful aspect of the ledger. Such is the up and down, the ebb and circulation of league volleyball play. Win or lose, it did not matter as a lot as enjoying, getting higher, gaining expertise. In the long run, in fact, to most who play aggressive sports activities, successful DOES matter, and in time they started to win championships. And so they received a number of them, together with ineffective trophies, finally changed by T-shirts, a a lot vaunted and much more fascinating image of volleyball achievement. None of them recalled and even cared concerning the win / loss report of that first pivotal season. It launched most of them — a few of them — right into a lifelong love affair, an innamorata, a secondary love maybe, however actual, enduring and consuming.

“Set Three” — “Sand and Storm”

Not content material with indoor volleyball, completely, often performed on hardwood courts, the newly shaped crew of six determined to enterprise into spring / summer time classes, out of doors courtroom play, and finally onto the sand of “seaside volleyball,” properly, to be correct, sand volleyball, as most courts out there for league play had been — and are more and more as we speak — in rear or aspect enclosures of tavern and bar properties. It started within the Summer season of 1975. Gigi was pregnant together with her first little one.

Amusingly illustrative of her rising ardour for the game, Gigi had requested her pediatrician, “Can I play volleyball with out jeopardizing my child within the first trimester? What concerning the second? The third? Can I dive onto the courtroom for hard-hit spikes?” The physician, whereas even handed in his recommendation, in the long run gave in to Gigis demand for truthful solutions and compromise.

“Simply be cautious,” stated Dr. Ken. “Do what your physique tells you to do.” Gigi continued to play till every week earlier than she delivered the couple’s first-born little one, a daughter. Their teammates purchased their new child daughter a tiny T-shirt. It was inexperienced and white, and printed on the left aspect of the entrance had been the phrases, “Poet’s Delight.”

Previous to their devotion to sand-court volleyball, within the spring and summer time seasons of 1975, “Poet’s Delight” performed on inexperienced grass and on asphalt-paved metropolis park playground courts. In one in every of their out of doors park seasons, teammate, John, caught an out-of-bounds hit by the opposition, concurrently shouting, “Time!” They had been locked in a tie, however the timed session was working quick, and John thought his crew might re-group and maybe win that season-ending championship recreation. The factor was, nonetheless, if one contacts a ball hit out of bounds, that’s, any contact of that nature leads to some extent for the opposing crew.

“Level,” the referee shouted. The sport and the championship had been misplaced in that occasion. Deflated however ever optimistic, Steve’s crew resolved to study by their errors. “There’s at all times subsequent season.” The phrases had been spoken with faint confidence and with out a lot enthusiasm by a number of of the six as they retreated from the courtroom, heads bowed and shaking in disbelief.

As summer time surrendered to fall and fall to the invasive chill of winter, the prideful band of ever-improving volleyball combatants performed at a wide range of venues, highschool and center faculty gymnasiums — together with one which was a part of a non secular order’s amenities in suburban St. Francis — grade faculty gyms, anyplace that was devoted on a weekday night to league play. They even performed in an indoor sand facility, constructed particularly for co-ed crew volleyball. Wherever league play and obsession beckoned, they’d benefit from the ordinary three recreation set, after which restore to a sponsor’s tavern or a sponsoring facility’s bar for post-game drinks and seemingly infinite dialog concerning the night’s play, groups and the talent, or lack thereof, of particular person gamers. Gamers had been analytical and philosophical, endlessly fascinated. Volleyball turned, if not truly “their lives,” at the least a big and key ingredient of these lives. And volleyball — it was Gigi who first noticed the apparent — “is like life itself. A metaphor for all times. A microcosm of the human expertise.”

As if calculated to show the assertion, teammates would come and go. Some misplaced curiosity and dropped out of the game. Companions, husbands and wives break up up and finally divorced. Fellow gamers with whom Steve and Gigi developed friendships got here and went, moved away or disappeared from their spheres of consciousness.

Personalities in volleyball are as numerous because the groups and particular person gamers themselves. Keen on them as Steve particularly was — actually greater than most — nicknames had been connected to sure gamers and their idiosyncratic behaviors. John, the unique catalyst to start enjoying the grand recreation, was a lefty, turned a superb hitter, or grasp of the “kill,” and thus was dubbed, “Captain Southwind.” “Florence of Arabia” was well-known for her dramatic dives onto sand courts in her valiant efforts to dig hard-hit spikes, creating small sand storms as she landed after which rose up triumphantly. “Sasquatch Sam” had enormous toes and was constantly imperiling opponents. He would leap, land unceremoniously and often commit “foot fouls,” typically wounding ankles and toes within the course of, inflicting opposing gamers to howl in ache and challenge loud, typically obscene protestations.

“Did you see that?” Somebody would name time and launch a harangue on the referee. “He might need damaged my foot. Did not you see that? Take note of the (expletive deleted) recreation, fer crying out loud!” Referees, just like the gamers themselves, had been typically properly skilled and wonderful, in tune with the sport and its guidelines, or mediocre and sometimes downright inept. Unnecessary, maybe, so as to add, participant protests and complaints would ceaselessly assault the ears of affected person referees, and very often gamers can be cautioned and even threatened with expulsion, at instances ejected from the sport.

Steve and Gigi’s participation has gone on and on, regardless of damage, being pregnant and the proclivities of an incredible number of teammates and fellow lovers. After some 20 years, or so, into their crew volleyball expertise, having gained and misplaced their authentic and plenty of subsequent teammates, they finally reunited with their mentors, their authentic “lecturers,” Jimmy and Carol.

Gigi and Steve encountered Carol at a social operate, maybe at a espresso store, might need been a grocery retailer. “Are you two nonetheless enjoying volleyball?” Carol requested.

Gigi replied. “We’ll play till we’re cannot play any longer.”

“Possibly ’til we’re lifeless,” Steve added, aiming for a contact of comedian drama.

“Jimmy and I might like to have you ever two be a part of us, as a crew, the 4 of us,” Carol stated. “What do you suppose?”

As if a pair of stereo audio system, obnoxious twins doing a gum industrial, they replied nearly in unison, “We might like to. We’re in! The place, when?… “

“Set 4” — 4 Many years and Counting

In Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1994, there was a facility constructed nearly completely for volleyball and the co-ed league play phenomenon that it had develop into within the late Nineteen Eighties, into and all through the last decade of the 90s, and properly past, in fact. That high quality sports activities advanced was a relatively lengthy drive for the 4 newly reunited teammates, however they’d share the driving responsibility, every couple alternating weeks. They started their “four-pack” expertise shortly after the volleyball venue in Waukesha opened its doorways.

They had been 4 gamers in a six-person league. The middle contained six full volleyball courts; it was and stays a superb facility. The flooring had been made from a “forgiving” rubberized materials, straightforward on the knees, straightforward on getting old our bodies diving to dig “kills” delivered by proficient opponents. The four-person crew received, maybe, eight of ten championship rounds in as many seasons or classes of play. The 4 of them had “aged gracefully” into the nice sport. If that they had misplaced a little bit of pace and quickness, they made up for it in “sensible play.” Jimmy was maybe the most effective placement hitter amongst legions of fellow gamers, in actual fact among the many finest many gamers had ever seen, and plenty of remarked on it with incredulity. He was the grasp of the “lengthy dink,” a way of sending the ball to the far reverse aspect or nook of the courtroom, an “uncovered” area. Carol and Gigi had been and proceed to be wonderful setters, good occasional hitters and adept at protection, placement and “drop pictures.” Steve was and nonetheless is a reliable defensive and again row participant, and a persistently competent hitter.

Inside a brief span of time throughout its historical past, the volleyball heart in Waukesha added an enclave of sand courts in its “yard,” and the four-person crew received summer-league championships on that venue as properly. They pissed off opponents, many if not most of them half their age on the time. They’d be warming up, passing, setting and spiking the ball to 1 one other as opponents appeared on the courtroom. The 4 “extra seasoned” gamers might see, and infrequently hear youthful opponents snickering, commenting with out pretense or disguise.

“My god,” one would start, “look how outdated these guys are. Is that their entire crew? This may not take lengthy.” And so they’d grin and snicker and chortle into cupped arms.

After the 4 beat their “six-pack” opponents handily, opinions, expressions of shock and post-match banter had been typically remarkably comparable. Too well mannered, on most events, to query ages immediately, they’d invariably ask, “What number of years have you ever guys been enjoying?” Or, “How lengthy have the 4 of you been collectively, I imply, enjoying volleyball as a crew?”

And like skilled, getting old warriors, with dignity and aplomb, the 4 would reply their questions respectfully, even paying compliments, as elder states-persons or lecturers may supply to younger college students or callow youths who’ve come into newly acquired information with a way of surprise and astonishment. A secondary purpose was to maintain the youthful gamers , motivated and inspired to enhance their expertise.

Gigi is now 68 years outdated. Carol has surpassed 70. They’ve a superb good friend and fellow volleyball participant, Gene, who’s 70-years-old. Gene is grasp of the “pancake dig,” a way of diving flat for a spike and getting a hand beneath the ball simply because it reaches the ground, inflicting the ball to pop up, ideally, to the setter. Abie is in his late sixties. A lot of their present, fellow gamers are of their late thirties or early to mid-forties. Many are youthful, twenty-somethings. At 72, Steve says he hopes to play “till I am lifeless, or very practically there.”

Jimmy and Carol, Steve and Gigi ended their four-person crew and league play on the finish of the 2008, maybe it was 2009. It was their closing sand-court season at a tavern within the industrial coronary heart of Milwaukee’s “River West” neighborhood. That crew expertise ended for diverse causes, however all of them nonetheless speak about their “seasons within the solar,” their championships on sand.

Gigi and Steve have not given up the game, not by any stretch, however discovered, not one other league, fairly a “co-ed volleyball recreation program” for adults. This system is sponsored by the a suburban recreation division, an adjunct of the neighborhood’s faculty district. Gigi, Steve and Carol are, so far as they know, the one three energetic gamers amongst their authentic cadre of fellow volleyball devotees. As with heavy sweaters on a warming spring day, they shrug off the admonitions of those that counsel, “You are all nuts for persevering with to play league volleyball at your age.”

Every reply to those that query their sanity is often remarkably comparable: “If I really feel good, if my physique responds to the bodily calls for of volleyball, why ought to I give up enjoying? If I am nonetheless in a position to compete with the youthful gamers, there is not any cause to give up. I am going to play till I am bodily unable to obtain and move, set, dig a hard-hit kill try and hit the ball with some authority over the online… “

Many — the really seasoned gamers who’re additionally avid spectators — perceive the sport’s finer factors, resembling the essential 4-2 serve – obtain system or rotation, or the 5-1 rotation usually present in school volleyball. Their present corps of gamers, nonetheless, eschews the extra subtle methods and issues itself, with a simplified dialogue over whether or not to play “heart up” or “heart again,” which means the courtroom place of the quantity two participant, again row heart, and that participant’s accountability for “kills” or well-placed lengthy pictures. At Steve’s age, at this juncture in his “volleyball profession,” he simply desires to play properly sufficient, skillfully sufficient to present the opposition a aggressive contest.

On his seventieth birthday, he performed in his ordinary Monday evening volleyball session. Many fellow gamers famous that Gigi executed a spectacular dive to dig the opposition’s kill, Carol hit the ground with a dig and a roll. Each regained their toes in time for the subsequent play. They’re 68 and 71 respectively. Exceptional! On that very event, a bunch of younger spectators witnessed the sport. With shocked appears to be like, their arms flew to their faces. “Are you OK? Are you harm?” Gigi is sort of offended by such reactions to her “ground dives.”

“I would not be enjoying aggressive volleyball if I could not dive for a kill,” she says in response.

As for Steve, he dove, rolled, scored a number of kills himself, dug quite a lot of tried kills, served a number of aces and in any other case performed a good recreation. His teammates feted Steve with a contented birthday music, a card and, in fact, cake, selfmade cake, embellished in a volleyball motif. “What an ideal method,” he remarked, “to realize entry via the septuagenarian gate.” Steve has at all times been fairly poetic.

After passing via that gate and enjoying rigorous volleyball for 2 stable hours on a Monday night — a session that begins after 7:45 PM! — he strutted like a proud younger rooster out to the highschool’s parking zone and into his automotive for the drive residence. However shortly after climbing in, out of sight and earshot of his fellows and driving homeward, he groaned from the aches and pains of the session’s fight, then as quickly as he hit the door of his residence and was in a position to wrestle the cap off the bottle, swallowed three ibuprofen! A weekly and fairly crucial ritual.

In some ways, volleyball is its personal ritual, a form of faith to these nonetheless obsessed, even after 40 years. By it and their historical past as avid members — not solely as gamers however as spectators of faculty, seaside and Olympic volleyball — Steve and Gigi have loved its varied phases of evolution, made lasting friendships, reveled in its society and its camaraderie and benefitted enormously from its health-enhancing, vigorous train. Stop? Not but. their new objective, they state emphatically, is to play till Gigi reaches age 70. “After that, who can say? Eighty? Eighty-five? Keep tuned. Possibly we’ll begin a weblog, maybe movie a documentary,” says Steve. The obsession continues to carry and enthrall, and can, the 2 insist, “till one thing sudden comes alongside and breaks the spell.”

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