If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled upon the Facebook group, Old School Volleyball. It’s worth checking out for the seemingly infinite number of classic AVP matches posted (I didn’t even know they had video cameras back then!). It’s as if the someone has discovered the hidden basement of a beach volleyball hoarder, stacked with shelves and shelves of recorded videotapes and once-neon-but-now-faded visors.
These videos are a real treat. There’s no denying the fun atmosphere and match intensity in beach volleyball’s heyday. Here’s a compilation of great rallies that showcase the hustle and kamikaze-defense of the big court.
On the negative side, many in the group validate their love of old school volleyball by bashing the current game and players. As if to truly love Karch Kiraly you have to deny Phil Dalhausser. To be a purist of side-out scoring and its long, endurance matches you have to claim that today’s players couldn’t last if they had to play for more than an hour. As well as flinging all kinds of hate on the skills—mostly hand-setting—of today’s players.
Way back in the Kinda Good days, I got so annoyed at Old School Volleyball comments that I wrote a parody song called, “Change Ruins the World.” It was from the perspective of an old, washed-up player who is disgusted with the rule changes that have perverted his game. Danny Kinda Madden recorded a version, but it was too bad to ever unleash on the world.
Here are the original lyrics. Imagine a slow-building, grungy rock song with a hard, but catchy guitar riff. Whatever version plays in your mind will be an improvement.
Change Ruins the World Remember back in the days of old When the game was pure the game was gold? Couldn't set perfect had to learn to bump Sided-out all day with no need to jump To win you had to be mentally tough Coolers and beach chairs were pay enough Then In 2001 the sky turned black Change hit like a straight six pack Tell me we can still go back Tell me it's not too late to go back Change, what good has it done? Change, got us on the run Change, it ruins the world! The game changed like the weather A spinning ball of synthetic leather The new game takes no skill at all You just have to be born seven-feet tall You destroyed the game with new rules Out with the old, in with the fools! Change, what good has it done? Change, got us on the run Change, it ruins the world! You've made real my greatest fear Girls' names now on the pier You've taken ball-control and beer guts out of the mix Listen to Confucius, "Ain't broke don't fix!” You say evolution is at hand But Monkeymen? I don't understand I am a rock, I'm an old oak tree So get your change away from me Change, what good has it done? Change, got us on the run Change, it ruins the world! Short court - cut shots sail wide Let serve - forcing me to dive Rally score - too much countin' Net penetration - hitting over a mountain Change get lost with all your pushin' Vanish down my couch cushion Internet - spam frustration Penicillin - overpopulation Industrial Revolution - stuck working 9 to 5 World is round - lose your balance nose dive! Change, what good has it done? Change, got us on the run Change, it ruins the wooooooorld!
My own unconditional love for volleyball was put to a minor test in the first FIVB tournament this year. The Hague. In January.
This was an indoor beach tournament (oxymoron?), and it also tested out a new block-touch rule. Like indoor, the block did not count as a touch, giving the team three more contacts after a block.
Now, this wasn’t a major change, but my first reaction was a bit crotchety. I imagined a tour of all indoor sand tournaments; players not having to contend with the wind and sun and the elements that made our game unique.
Change ruins the world!
But the event was great, even if it was hard getting used to the movement of the ball indoors—float serves seemed to have special magic on them. Best of all, we were able to play beach volleyball in January when it was freezing outside. And it was good volleyball, too. After our loss to The Netherlands in playoffs, I watched the next match on stadium between Brouwer/Meeuwsen and Samoilovs/Smedins. The game looked flawless in a way that you don’t see except on the calmest days. If the wind gets too strong, volleyball gets hard to watch (I played an AVP in Muskegon where the top players in the country were serving underhand just to keep the ball in play). Here, everyone was in-system, crushing the ball or executing perfectly clean shots to the corners; it was a test of who could play the best volleyball, not who could best handle the conditions.
The block-touch rule didn’t play much of a factor. It only happened once or twice a game and I think it did add some excitement. Teams were able to transition with a swing way more. The old school defender in me was critical of this at first—it is artful to watch a good defender dig a deflected ball to the net so his partner can put it away—but as a fan, anytime you get to see a swing instead of a free-ball, it’s a win.
The AVP implemented freeze-scoring at the end of the 2016 season and all of the 2017 season. This caused a lot of controversy and arguments for and against, but a year later, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. It was still beach volleyball. It still feels like the same game I grew up playing so long ago. I’m a just a little bigger, and the court is a little smaller.
Volleyball will continue to change and evolve as the powers that be search for ways to get the general population hooked on this great game.
Maybe in the future, the game will be so different from today’s incarnation that my old-school buddies and I will hold onto our version, preserved in the amber of our own private court (in this future scenario I own a strand-house in Manhattan Beach). We might ignore the current game with its best-out-of-seven format and two-point back row attacks, but I hope I won’t be making fun of the current crop of players just because I was around at a different time. I’ll still support the sport and watch the Manhattan Beach Open (from the balcony of my strand-house) because beach volleyball will still need all the love it can get.