A girl’s game?

Published 8:10 am Friday, March 12, 2004

By Staff
Have you ever heard of Fabiano Barreto? Or how about Ryan Stuntz?
I hadn't either until just recently, when my interest in volleyball was piqued by a catalog we received in the mail. The catalog is called Spike Nashbar, and anyone who is interested in volleyball is probably familiar with it. This particular issue of the catalog also included some newsy items concerning the 2003 NCAA Men's Volleyball season.
I've always like to play volleyball. Growing up in a church with its own gymnasium allowed me to play plenty of basketball and volleyball year-round.
What I never realized, however, is how different organized volleyball is from what I played at church.
When I was a sophomore at Bethel College, a group of students tried to start a men's club volleyball team. I went to the tryout and made the team, mainly because I could spike a ball pretty well. I had no other skills.
Practicing with other guys who knew the game of volleyball helped me realize how much fun it could be. If you learn to play the game properly,it can be just as challenging and competitive as any other sport I've played.
Once I came to Niles, I found a group of men who play volleyball at a church once a week in the winter and joined them. Then, this past summer my wife and I were asked to play in an outdoor league in Three Oaks.
The league was the most competitive volleyball I've ever played and I can't wait to play in it again this summer.
Like many people, I always thought volleyball was a girl's game, but I enjoyed it just the same. Now that I've learned more about it, I wonder why more men don't play it.
If men would give the game a chance, and would allow themselves to be taught how to play the game, I think they would love it.
Volleyball has everything guys love about sports. You get to hit the ball as hard as you want. You have to have some skill and there is plenty of strategy involved.
Most men, though, still think of volleyball as a girl's sport. That stigma, however, seems to be fading.
One of my friends at Bethel College was a 6-6, 240-pound center on the basketball team, but he was also an All-State volleyball player at Washington Township High School in Indiana.
My brother-in-law is a Florida native who decided to attend Tri-State University in Angola, Ind., because of its engineering program and the fact that he could play on the men's volleyball team.
I mentioned Fabiano Barreto and Ryan Stuntz earlier and now I'll tell you why. They are two returning All-Americans for the Lewis University men's volleyball team which won the NCAA Championship last season.
My wife and I are planning to go watch the Lewis Flyers take on Ball State on Sunday, April 2.
I recently had the opportunity to watch some men's volleyball at a tournament my wife was playing at. The event was held at the University of Illinois-Chicago and in between her matches I snuck down to the other end of the gym to watch the men's tournament.
I was shocked when I saw how many teams there were and how competitive the games were. I also realized how far away from that level of play I am.
With the strength men possess and the leaping ability some have, volleyball becomes a fast-paced, high-powered game unlike anything I've ever seen.
With volleyball gaining some momentum among the girls in the local areas, and with the start of the Krush Volleyball Club here in Niles, it's about time the boys get in on the action.
Krush director Dennis Cooper wanted to offer boys the opportunity to play when the club first started, but a lack of interest kept it from happening.
I don't think the boys know what they're missing.
They could be missing the chance to find a new sport they love. They may also be missing out on something that could possibly lead to a college scholarship or even a professional career.
Volleyball is not just for girls anymore and I hope the men and boys of this area figure that out soon.
Dan Weiss is sports editor of the Niles Daily Star. Email him at dan.weiss@leaderpub.com