MY IDEA OF a happenin’ Friday night has not once involved a) a Georgetown warehouse with a floor covered in sand, b) competitive team sports or c) playing competitive team sports from 10 p.m. to midnight.
But there I was at Sandbox Sports for my first go at volleyball since high-school gym class. My memories of volleyball mostly involve reddened forearms and a dislike of serving, setting and/or bumping the ball.
Good thing I know people who like the sport. I brought my friend Lisa, who played in college, and told her it would be fun. In truth, I needed someone to teach me to play.
Sandbox Sports has a cavernous space with two courts and a funky, semitropical theme. It is mostly geared toward league play. On Friday nights at 10 (except during the summer), it opens the indoor courts for drop-ins. It’s casual, if you can call a two-hour, constant round-robin in teams of four “casual.” Also, it usually sells out by Wednesday, which means a lot of people choose this for their Friday-night activity.
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Once we arrived, a staff member asked us about our volleyball experience and sent us to the courts to warm up. Lisa gave me a few tips on how to bump and set, including using my legs rather than my shoulders to get the ball up. We hit the ball back and forth. It’s a lot harder in sand, she noted.
When teams were announced and we met our teammates, Marcus and Ed, I told them I was a beginner, neglecting to add how long it had been since I last played. Marcus asked if I had played on sand before. Poor guy.
The beginning was a little rough, but once I got my groove, if the ball came to me, I could usually bump it. Control, on the other hand, wasn’t so awesome. Even the opposing team occasionally gave me tips about a “soft touch.” I could bump a serve, but setting the next shot veered between overly rambunctious and too low for a fellow teammate to get to in time to pop it over the net. I avoided spiking.
My main downfalls were strategy and execution. Unfortunately for my teammates, both are key to winning.
Still, my teammates were encouraging the entire time. Experience level varied on all of the teams, though some teams had the bump, set, spike rhythm down. Some teammates cared more than me about points, which wasn’t hard because I didn’t care at all. But Friday nights are about having fun, said one teammate who is also in a weekday league, and no one seemed upset over missed points or lost games.
As for fitness, there’s a reason beach volleyball players look like they do. You work every muscle in beach volleyball, particularly your legs and core with all the running and jumping. People say beach volleyball gets really fun once you start to dive into the sand.
Even with my comical lack of skill, it was really fun. I had a surprising amount of energy at 11 p.m. on a Friday. We celebrated every point with people yelling “nice touch” or “nice try,” no matter if it was good or bad. I figured out my serve and even won a few points for my teams.
About halfway through, my forearms started to ache from contact with the ball. Supposedly this is not a problem if you play regularly. Sounds like all I need is sunshine and a few rounds on Alki Beach this summer. One day, I might dive for the ball.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.