Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Volleyball Bayview 2005

The automobile made the suburbs possible and junior volleyball is possibly the quintessential suburban sport. With some possible exceptions, kids don't get to tournaments by public transportation or bicycle. In most cases, I'm not even sure it's possible. We drive thousands of miles each year usually in some form of a sport utility vehicle to take our kids to various tournaments. You wake up before the sun comes up. You fill the car with ice chests, folding chairs, blankets, and various electronic devices. This year, all the kids seem to wander the gyms between matches with white earphones and pastel-colored hard drives. Often, two girls share a single set of headphones so it looks like the letter "M" walking up and down the sidewalks outside the gyms. Today, the last day of the Bayview Classic was the first time I ever counted the vehicles. There were somewhere between forty and fifty vehicles there at Deer Valley High School. The average round trip was about 100 miles. This includes the fact that Vallejo Extreme first drove to the Bladium in Alameda before it learned that their matches today were in Antioch. At twenty miles a gallon, probably a generous estimate given the vehicles most of us drive to tournaments, that site acounted for two hundred and fifty gallons of gasoline. The tournament is three days over four sites with Deer Valley and Los Medanos being the smallest. My guess is that the gas cost of just getting to and from the Bay View tournament was roughly 2500 gallons.

This kind of junior sport could not have existed a generation ago. A sixty mile drive three days in a row in a Rambler station wagon wasn’t most family’s idea of a good time. Besides, most girls didn’t play organized sports then and there were no women’s athletic scholarships. Many families also had more kids and more parents made their living through physically difficult work. Back then, gasoline was often under seventy five cents/gallon. When our own daughter’s have children old enough to play this sport though, it’s likely that there won’t be enough gasoline to do it this way unless some drastic changes happen. World oil demand is growing, especially from China which happens to be the reigning Olympic champion in our sport. The world supply of new oil is not. Virtually every spot in the world that has significant oil reserves is also a political hot spot, the Middle East, the southern parts of what was the USSR, Venezuela. I know that most of us do junior sports to get our minds off this kind of thing, but our version of junior volleyball is an extraordinary luxury. This may be the only generation of young women who will get junior volleyball as one of the pleasures of the age of gasoline.

When I first saw the under 16’s seedings at this year’s Bay View Classic, I was honestly disappointed to find my daughter’s 15’s team seeded third. In general, with the growing importance of JO’s., my guess is that clubs are spending more resources both getting there and as a corollary going to more qualifiers. Regional tournaments like this one held after the date bids went out seem to be drifting towards minor league status. While we’d normally be thrilled to be seeded third, my daughter’s team was roughly the twentieth strongest team in Northern California under 16’s. One of the more regrettable trends n the tournament is that a lot of the stronger teams in 14’s and 16’s have taken to playing up an age group. It’s too bad. Bayview has always been a well run often highly competitive tournament. If you happen to play at the Bladium, you even actually get a view of the bay too. As it turned out, the 16’s wound up being very competitive unless you happened to be Saddleback 16.

I have to congratulate the tournament organizers. One way they found to keep the tournament interesting is via the “Power Pool”. Instead of having teams play a full day of non-competitive matches, the top 16 teams are identified beforehand and play each other. Misseeded teams have a way through, it’s not easy, but Nevada County 15’s, a group that only recently got its full team together at the same tournament, actually came out of the challenge pools and a 19 seed to make the semifinal. Even the teams playing up worked. My daughter’s 15’s team was badly beaten by a very good City Beach 14’s team which passed spectacularly well throughout the two game match.

Frankly, my daughter’s team has struggled some this year despite a huge upside and so reliving some of the matches hasn’t been very therapeutic. Norcal 15’s was an interesting team. They have a very tall middle in 12 with actual backrow skills, a fast setter, and they play very determined defense. They beat their own 16’s team fairly easily in the round of 16, I’m told partly because all the younger players from the 16’s moved to 15’s after the bid thing (feel free to correct me). In what might have been the Empire 15’s best match of the tournament, we beat them in three. At 14-14 of the third game, Norcal had played a very impressive first game then Empire started blocking everything in the second game, the Norcal left hit a very hard four over the block for what looked like a certain kill. The Empire setter was right in position in the backrow and it hit her on the forehead. The ball went straight back over the net. The Norcal players still in shock set another four and this time the front row blocked it with their hands. Timeout was called and both huddles seemed to be caught between the drama of 15-14 in the third and uncontrollable laughter about the last point. It was a great moment, made even better by thefact that Empire also won the last point. Of course, Norcal 15 got its revenge. They beat an ice cold Empire team n the quaterfinal. To complete the story. The match may have turned on a point at 14-14 in the second game. The same Empire player ran down and dove after a shanked pass and made a spectacular on purpose save only to see the third ball go into the net. The next seven points included three shanked serves and three consecutive hitting errors. As they’ve taught me at Volleyparent anonymous, “This happens sometimes and in the bigger picture of peak oil, fears about the viabiity of the American politcal process, and the fact that kids who don’t have volleyball scholarshps as high school sophomores are now made to feel like losers, it’s just not that big a deal, and I need to apologize for swearing audibly when it happened.” Making matters worse, I was videotaping the match so my swearing in a gym filled with 14 and 15 year old girls is now on a high 8 tape.

After our match with City Beach 14, I was really impressed with how fundamentally sound they were. They passed perfectly for a two game stretch. Their defense was City Beach standard determined and tenacious and this group could block and hit on top of it. #14, their lefthanded right side hitter was especially hard to stop. The one good thing for Empire in the match was one of the lefts had one of those matches where what’s possible suddenly meets up with what actually consistently happens when she hits. It was a joy to see a player’s game suddenly take the leap and it turned a second game City Beach rout into an almost interesting proposition though the only kinds of hitters who get 8 hard kills in a row without an error usually wind up at some place like UCLA.

The next day, I watched a couple games of Nevada County beating City Beach 14 surprisingly easily in the round of 16. fwiw the Nevada County team apparently has 4 eight graders on it so has a claim to being a 14 and half team of sorts. The team has several big athletic girls who play with real energy. Their setter #10 is very smooth and sees the court extremely well. On sets to the middle she does this distinctive one-footed pivot and she occasionally jump sets a four from the right side of the court, all of which is pretty impressive for a freshman. Also #9 a big eight grader went full speed to the corner laid out and rescued a ball three feet past the baseline. In other words, in a little town well out of any significant Norcal city there’s both a lot of volleyball potential and some serious coaching going on. They went on to beat the Empire 16 two team in a very close match in the quarterfinal. For some real trivia, Nevada County is actually in California, despite the name and Nevada Union high school is in grass valley. After Ricky Williams failed his drug tests and suddenly retired from the NFL, he actually moved to Grass Valley for a while (sometimes life is way more coincidental than fiction permits) where he learned to be an "Alternative healer". Can you imagine if Ricky Williams had gotten into city league volleyball there and decided to play grass doubles? Besides,Nevada County sounds better than Grass Valley Juniors, say playing in hemp instead of spandex and all those jokes....

Unquestionably, the class of the 16’s was Saddleback, a Festival team that won last year’s Reno 15’s title without losing a game. I think they came to Bayview in hopes of seeing teams like Empire 16 one, City Beach, Delta 16’s, etc. who had all decided to play up at 18’s. Let me put this as directly as possible, the best 16’s team at Bayview was playing 16’s and given the power pool format n the tournament, it would have been a perfectly respectable and in fact very interesting field if everyone had just stayed in their age group. Saddleback is as good as any team that came to Far Westerns this year in the 16’s and if they went to JO’s would likely medal in open. Typical of great Southern California teams they have excellent ball control and at times are spectacular defensive improvisers. They have college sized middles and lefts who are not just tall, but have the square shoulders of mature-trained athletes. I’m not a coach, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a couple of them could fit in perfectly well on college teams now. They also have a jump server who has control of direction and speed and who can run off nine or ten of the things in a row putting it seemingly at any spot on the court she cares to. My daughter’s team felt lucky to lose to them 15 sand 17. If anyone doubts that there are some serious teams that go to Festival instead of JO’s, that person has not seen the Saddleback 16’s team I saw at Bay View.

In general, the Oregon teams were stronger again. Two years ago in 14’s they appeared to be down, but Portland 16’s were very good and Rogue Valley made the final. To give you sense of how close it was at the top, Rogue Valley was second in its pool the first day and third on the second day, including a three game loss to my daughter’s Empire 15’s team. Both teams had some enormous players and I was really impressed with the Rogue Valley libero. They do this defense where she winds up as the only backrow player often and it actually works.

I did also want to mention Vallejo Extreme. Club volleyball is a sport where things over the years start looking more similar rather than less. While they are probably too small and a litle too inconsistent to be a great team, Vallejo Extreme was fun to watch because they did things differently. For one thing, it looked like they were frequently passing to a left-side setter on purpose. At least controlled passes were gong to the left from time to time and whoever was on the left seemed perfectly comfortable setting all the way over to the right. They went to the wrong gym this morning so were penalized 16 points in the first game for being late. They threw out this ambidextrous offense and a non-traditional defensive scheme that seemed to cover all the corners and the angles while daring the other team to get the ball down in the middle of the court. It made for a very scary three game match. If you do the math, had it not been for the penalty, Vallejo actually scored more points.

Two other non-court things I wanted to mention. Everyone seemed to like the change at Bladium where they open up the back sliding door on one side. It means that you don’t have to walk all the way to the front to get to courts that are way in the back where you have to park your car. They also put a hot food concession with a pretty good reasonably priced food in front of the new entry. The carne asada plate at seven dollars including soda was genuinely good and the hot dogs came with freshly grilled onions (to be honest only the adults seeme to care about or even want the onions). Second, the Bladium I assume was mostly meant for roller hockey. In previous years, one rink even at busy volleyball tournaments was always kept open for roller hockey matches. On my three trips to Bladium this year, the hockey has completely disappeared. Even the concession selling all those expensive bags, ball bearings, and pads for odd body parts, was dark and now seems to be sharing space with a batting cage. Bottom line, at least in the Bay Area where ice does not generally occur naturally at least in sufficient quantity to skate on, the NHL strike appears to be killing the sport. It’s quite possible that the last time I’ll ever have watched a hockey game on tv, Kurt Russell was the coach and everyone was yelliing about beating the Russians because they were occupying Afghanistan and the US was getting ready to arm a group called the “Taliban” to help advance our interests in the region.

Our family loves spending these weekends together at faraway tournaments on weekends when the weather is Northern California perfect like this one. Even if this tournament ended in frustrating fashion and my daughter’s 15’s team also suffered the indignity of losing to a very good 14’s team. It’s my hope that our kids will use their heads for more than digging volleyballs late in the third game and we do what it takes to make it possible for their daughters’ families to have similar spring pleasures whether they grow up in California, Indiana, or maybe even Uzbekistan, Guanghzhou, and Kabul. I do have to say though that other parts of the world might find it strange that adult spend this much time watching their kids do stuff instead of the other way around. Over the next generation, we have a serious choice to make. Which one are we going to prioritize? Are we going to choose enjoying our time with our children or would we rather drive around in continuous traffic jams in the same kind of vehicle that our governor drives?
If we make the right choice, it would be a Miracle worth celebrating.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

White House continues to pressure Moses for a retraction

White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, recently stepped up the administration's efforts to get Moses to retract two unconfirmed commandments that have caused the deaths of millions of people over thousands of years of history. Though Moses first defiantly stood by his single unconformed source, said to be a high level official responsible for all the laws of nature except for the theory of evolution. Moses has since admitted that he only saw his source on top of Mount Sinai and the whole time the source was covered in a cloud of smoke.
"God had been a very reliable source in the past, except that time he sent Gabriel to tell Abraham to kill Isaac," said Aaron, a spokesman for Mosaic which like Al Gore claims to have helped create the World Wide Web. Aaron then excused himself to lobby for an 11th commandment "Thou shalt not spam or create adware. Thou shalt abandon Explorer and use Firefox or Opera."

"How credible is it when Moses himself admits to destroying his original set of tablets? It was obvious to anyone that the Times Roman font he used in the second set of tablets couldn't have existed in pre-Roman times," Mcllelan pointed out. "In Moses time, you could get away with that, but now we have the internet to catch this kind of thing. It just shows how much humanity has morally advanced from Moses. Moses's time as a prophet who can be taken seriously is clearly past."

Moses story, that God told him among other things that it was immoral to kill amd bear false witness have most recently set off a flurry of protests around the world against Bush administration policy.
Two weeks ago, Moses released the following statement.
" I know it was only a single source, but the source was God himself. I took notes of our conversation on two stone tablets. Before I came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets, I showed them to two high level Pentagon officials who looked over the story. One didn’t comment and the other commentted on a small point in the commandments about "Coveting another man’s house and manservant" being a clear condemnation of homosexuality in the armed forces. I was extremely careful. Unfortunately, God now won’t come forward to confirm that he himself dictated the commandments."
There have been several reports about millions of other people including members of the Jewish faith who have also claimed to have taken the commandments seriously, as well as the authors of Deuteronomy. Moses, however, admits, that there is no proof that the commandments he circulated were given him by God.
"If what Moses claims were true, it’s clear that you might as well flush US military policy over the last three years right down the toilet," McClellan said.
Although no charges are pending against Moses, "Even though he caused incredible harm to the US, this administration respects freedom of the press even in instances like this when that freedom is managed irresponsibly. We are disappointed in Moses and troubled by his lack of journalistic standards, but we do not, at this time, believe that he should do hard time or be deported back to Egypt," said one Pentagon spokesperson whose identity is being withheld here for national security reasons.
"Two confirmed sources should be the minimum for any responsible report unless you are reporting about WMD, Valerie Plame, the social security trust fund, or positive stories about Jessica Lynch or Pat Tillman," continued McClellan. "We want Moses to repudiate all the commandments to make it clear to the world that US policy is not in conflict with God’s will."
"Look at Watergate. It ruined the United States because Carl Woodward built a whole series from one uncomfirmed source, Deep Throat. We have to make sure that never happens again," added Karl Rove. "Our children’s future depends on it."
At his height, Moses was hailed as a prophet by three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is unlikely that his reputation or his "reputed" commandments will recover any time soon. Two years ago, Moses also claimed to have talked to God through a burning Bush. The President formally denied this,"I have no recollection of burning one with Moses or anyone else, of course, I am no longer responsible for the first 35 years of my life."

In the mean time, Fox News has promised a new more accurate, fully confirmed by the White House, version of the commandments.

This publication was given an early version of two of them, 1. Thou shalt not kill except for purposes of national security. Thou also has a right to have an unlimited number of guns and God and the Government will have nothing to do with it.
2. Thou shalt not bear false witness unless it has been approved in advance by Karl Rove.
Early reports suggest that the Congress will be asked to confirm Fox’s new edition fo the commandments despite talks of a possible filibuster.


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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Origins of the Volleyblog (volleyball)

I've spent more of my time on various internet message boards than I'd care to admit to non font-based lifeforms. In fact, some of my earliest posts were on the Volleyball magazine bulletin board which sadly fell apart partly because there was a very enthusiastic volleyball poster there named "Shephard" who didn't actually do anything wrong, but who seemed to provoke other posters somehow. I'm not even sure what name I used for posting on that board. At one point, there was a thread on that board about the Hawaii setting situation and how the setter at the time came to be Da Wahine setter. I sent a private message to Shephard about what I knew about that story. The Volleyball magazine board eventually shut down in a flame war. Apparently the magazine never did realize the potential of the web for volleynews vs. monthly paper-based publishing.

A couple months later, my stepdaughter was at a tournament in California and some internet based volleyball guy asked to interview her. It seemed a little odd, because she while she was a good college player, she was hardly famous and she had sprained her ankle the week before and wasn't even playing in the tournament. The site, "" . then imploded sevral months later. The proprietor of Rollshot then revealed that groundbreaking site's strange life in a couple farewell posts. It turned out that Rollshot=Shephard and my step daughter's recruiting story of how she spent two months of her senior year of high school waiting for a call from the University of Hawaii had played a small part in inspiring that site.

At roughly the same time, internet volleyball message boards had sprung up in two other places. One was the board that became , sort of like a volleyball version of the show Lost composed of refugees from the original volleyball newsgroups back when most of the web was text-based and the asbestos suited survivors of the Volleyball Magazine board, and the other was over at where a volleyball board had started getting overrun by Indiana parents anxious to talk about their sport. The moderator of the volleyball board at high school sports was John Tawa. Tawa realized that there might be an actual market for news about junior volleyball and that became

I was a regular, though not necessarily a frequent or notorious poster in both places. After rolled over, Shephard seemed to reappear at under so many names that he became the Sybil of the web volleyball world. Synchronicity has always played a role in my life. Shephard took his sceen name partly after his dog. Chancelucky happens to be the name of two border collies. The other odd coincidence is that Jtawa, Shephard (he of the rollover screen name), and Chancelucky all happen to be members of the California Bar. The strangest fact of all though is that none of the three of us played high school or college volleyball. My older volleychild's life had played a role in Rollshot and very obliquely at Volleytalk. I began posting about the younger volleychild's adventures at Prepvolleyball.

For whatever reason, the posts slipped from being message board posts to full length volleyblogs that often went longer than the above the fold articles on the site. Some people liked them. Some complained that they didn't like to read long posts with big words. Others found my insistence on commenting about non-volleyball matters in the blogs annoying. I was having fun and since my kids complain that I'm not a very good photographer, one thing I learned is that consumer digital cameras don' mix easily with an indoor high motion sport like volleyball, it occured to me that it was a way to remember this stretch of family history. Most of my adult life, I had written in other forms but strangely more people were reading and responding to my blogs than almost anything I wrote.

In any case, posts on most busy message boards are transitory. At some point, the proprietor in the interest of bandwidth lets them fade out. I was a little shocked though to learn that one poster had archived every article that ever appeared on, if Rick Kern's site is the great achievement of the objective approach to web-based volleyball information Rollshot was the first good off the wall approach to web volleyball (something I always appreciated and still miss) . It occured to me that it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a small space to archive some of my longer volleyball posts so they might have a life a little bit longer than the couple weeks they have on message boards. I also figured that it wouldn't be a terrible place to also post some other things that I write and no one other than a friend or two and an occasional slushpile intern ever had an opportunity to read.

If you do happen to check out my site. I was thrilled to get a comment here from an old friend btw. Please hold me to a couple things on my volleyball posts. One reason I started posting the way I do is that I've felt there are two things that make volleyball message boards kind of pathetic places. Most volleyparents, including me, have a simple agenda. They want to brag about their kids or they want to complain about any impediments in the junior volleyball world that keep them from having concrete ways to brag about their kids. Why else would you spend tens of thousands of dollars and all your winter/spring weekends driving to places like Fresno to hang out in a gym or sport court covered convention center? Second, most posts about tournaments are written so perfunctorily that they couldn't possibly be of interest to anyone whose own kid wasn't in the same tournament or about to play teams in that tournament. So, if my bragging gets too transparent, please send me a note or post a comment to let me know that. If any of you have read V.S. Naiapaul's A Bend in the River, there's a moment where the narrator realizes that the old history professor is less of a true scholar than he thought when he reads the professor's history of the obscure African country they both live in and realizes it is nothing but dates, places, and names of battles. If my own Bend in the Junior Volleyball world devolves into that, just warn me because it'll mean that something essential about being a volleyball parent is about to die inside me. That's the one other thing I share with Rollshot and Jtawa, we all believed the world of American volleyball was worth putting into words.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Tom Delay's father stayed in the news for about 1/60th the time Terri Schiavo did. I'm figuring a roughly similar ratio for the recent release of detainee interviews from Gauntanamo. Apparently it's filled with repeated accusations from the detainees that their jailers were desecrating the Koran/Qu'ran in various ways including one claim from 2002 that someone flushed a Qu'ran down a toilet. This doesn't necessarily make the story true, but I wonder how much press this will get compared to the Newsweek retraction story.
My over under is that this new story will last about 2 days.

I am wondering why we keep getting these alternate English spellings for the Moslem holy scriptures. For several centuries we anglicised the name to "Koran". Supposedly Qu'ran is closer to the way it's spoken/written in the Moslem world. I think that means, if we wind up losing this latest version of the Crusades, future generations will be using the spelling that more closely approximates the 21st century American take on the Christian scriptures and calling it the "Buyble" or maybe the "Buyable" or "Bialbowl". Stranger yet, I was in San Francisco the other day and I saw a place offering something called Korean Barbeque, which I take to be yet another alternate spelling for the Qu'ran. It's very sad that Americans find this so amusing that we desecrate the Islamic scriptrues/scriptures while eating kim-chee, bulgogi, and the edible parts of illicit nuclear weapons. At least they don't serve pork at these Korean Barbeque places. Talk about your ultimate eclectic California cuisine take on Seoul Food.

Having tried to read both books, it becomes readily apparent that they're a surprisingly similar take on some shared stories. In various forms, Moses, Abraham, and even Jesus appear in both books and if you were a Martian who learned to read the things you would be quite taken with the fact that both books are primarily about one thing "there's just one God, that's me, and you better believe in me or else."

You might even argue that desecrating one is in some way a desecration of the tradition of the other. They say they have these orientations now for personnel working with the detainees there. What are the odds that it includes mention that the Dome of the Rock and the Wall of the Temple stand next to one another?

It's kind of like competing news organizations with a common source and a completely different message some six hundred years apart. As we head into the circle of Mayan time here, I'm wondering if there might be some sort of retraction. I mean, what if God refuses to confirm either story?


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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Tears for the River God (fiction)

This story has been published by Grey Sparrow Journal in their June 2009 issue

A Bok Kai Temple link
more fiction on this site

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Friday, May 06, 2005



This is How...

.... to pick up the birdy that fell out of the tree, cradled in the palm of big sister's hand, squeezing just enough to let her feel safe. This is how we feed her with the eyedropper, press the rubber bulb until you can see the single drop glisten on the tip. Wait until she opens her beak. This is how we make a bed for the birdy with a shoebox and your softest folded towel. This is how we listen not so much with our ears but instead with our eyes to make sure she's breathing. This is how to stroke her feathers. If they tickle your fingerptips it's just right. If they press your fingertips, you might hurt her. This is how to check on birdy, open the door gently never let it slam, so she won't startle. This is how we let big sister watch over birdy now that it's past your bedtime.

This is how you find relief from the 100 degrees of the afternoon.
Even af ter dark the house gets so hot inside all you can think
of is how the open front door brings in the cool night air. This
is how the cat crouches on the doorstep, waiting for that bing at
the end of the dryer cycle, knowing in that way that cats know just when you will be too wrapped up in the warm cloth monotony of folding and sorting to hear her claws scrape the entry's rough tile. Cats know what humans refuse to understand. Cats know that humans forget. This is how you find out. The baby in the hallway, crying.

"Mommy, the cat has birdy in her mouth. Cat has birdy in her

This is how you chase the cat. You run with a flashlight, your bare feet popping into the cold bumpy grass of the backyard. You don't want to catch him, not really. You standing in the damp night, a dead bird in your hands. Instead, you scream towards the bushes at the back of the yard where your circle of D cell light searches vainly for the cat, the master of the night. You shrug your shoulders and shake your head, hoping that the baby will see how you tried.

This is how the baby says,

"Mommy put the birdy back in her bed, put the birdy back."

This is how the baby's eyes look as wide and heavy as stone
when she sees that you have no answer.

This is how you make her try to forget. You take her up in
your arms, freeing her ever so briefly from the relentlessness of
gravity and stainmaster carpets. This is how you try to make her
forget, hoping that your arms can make amnesia. You feel
ever so curiously relieved when your daughter tells you,

"Maybe birdy come back tomorrow. Tomorrow, okay."

This is how the baby goes back to your bed, body stiff, eyes open, staring at a ceiling lit with the shadow of wings.

This is how they learn sometimes. This is how you have to
raise them. You lying next to her, wondering how you will ever
get the courage to open that door again. You, eyes open, your body cradled around your baby, waiting for morning.

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Grandparents (poems)

I The Will

orange peel dries on accordion radiator
goldfish in algaed shadows
red cushion motel furniture
In your bed,
sewing, reading, chewing
Chinese newspapers, pumpkin seeds, mistuned television
no volume in your red orange world
across from the projects
yours alone for forty years

"Speak up, she can't hear"
"Po po" I shout
One of twenty words we both know

"School is not for girls,"
Sin San pointed his teacher's finger past you
You brought your own desk to that stone hut school
and refused to leave
You kept a still during prohibition
Behind the baby's crib
You grabbed
brass poled cable car
on the outside
the neighbor women, all high pitched Cantonese shrieks
and shopping bags
reluctant followers
to the bargain stores outside Chinatown
You hand signalled the sales clerks, grunted, shook your head
for the best prices
My speak up Grandmother

at the fish market, in a restaurant
you pretended not to notice
the woman with your forehead, your set of mouth
the grandson who held her hand,
She had defied you into silence that lasted
Thirty eight years
You left four million dollars to your three sons
twenty dollars each to four of your daughters
one dollar to the other
three clauses in your will
You let your youngest son
hit your homeliest daughter
"She doesn't matter"
You told him
Your eldest son
dropped his pants to the floor
"Girls do the laundry for the boys"
"That's the way things are."
You told your daughters
You promised one daughter a six inch circle of jade
èThen slipped it on another's braceletted wrist
"What promise?" you asked
As you watched her tears race against composure
Your own face so many years ago in that stone hut schoolroom
My can't hear Grandmother

II The Heart

You bought oranges in crates
Rice in fifty pound sacks
propped up the stairway like sandbags
you sent your daughters
to take old men and women on the bus
to American doctors
A crumpled ten dollar bill in their purse
to help pay if the old ones couldn't
"Someday you might be old" you reminded them
As strangers slept
on mounded duck feathers in your poultry store's basement
"No one goes hungry here"
A pot of rice and a steamed chicken
Always in the back
in case

black and white, brownie lensed photo
overalls, arms around your children
"always smiling, always fair" so they say
you fought on the docks
pushing through blocks
of marbled ice, of sapiened octopi
arms and hands
for the freshest fish
in your bare light bulbed store
chicken blood on white aprons
hair that smelled of salt and sea bass scales
You squeezed your body under tables
to play hide and seek with your grandson
had tea with your youngest daughter
in doll sized cups

You, death worked inside out
from the center of your bones
a cancer that made you cry in pain
for two years
the justice of a chicken god
On the roof, I hear you sing
In my gravel off keyed voice
To the sun and soft-centered sky
Of things that matter
And memory that warms
the fog of our never having met of
"Your never being old someday too."
III The Eyes

Man soda in amber shot glass
before meals
A green formica dinner table
á lazy susan center of salte fish whol swallows with crunchy
bones, mounds of white rice, pale emerald vegetables, steamed
Your mustache trimmed, suit pressed
in your windowed breakfast room
secret ruler of the gambler's underworld

You drove twenty over the limit
your children took your tests at DMV
As they sang of netted gains, important friends, neighborhoods
gold starred papers
Still hoping you would sign their report cards
years after they had children of their own
With a single click of your tongue
A crumple of your lower lip
you held your house in place
nineteen rooms, two of everything
but just one wife

You collected clocks on your plastered mantlepiece
Set them every morning
just a minute off
So they chimed and chimed until time
moved forward, backward too,
pendulum still
for the pictures by the incense burner
You taught us to kowtow
three times each, on gold lamed living room cushions
your father and mother
in restored black and white
hard cheeked faces, gray brows
staring down
Witholding approval of their son

IV The Ear

The mosát beautifuá woman of your generation
They called you
at your husband's funeral
intensity and clarity
that age couldn't wrinkle
men still stole dreams from your looks
or was it stolen looks for your dreams
after your children had children of their own
ten pregnancies and six children
one a miscarriage
the other three, all visits to the midnight doctor
across town the one last time
èyou bled for six days, fainted in the bathtub
your everyday life
on a tv tray
solitaire with blue backed cards
counting money from the basement
thousands and hundreds clean and uncirculated
saved for the very last
your hands
never stopped moving

In bed till noon, opposite hours from his
game shows on tv
but in your kitchen
hard rock jello, Chinese chewing gum, reindeer soup
snails served on top of rice, corn puddle stew,
jook with marbles in it
The only reminder of the poems
You wrote as a girl
In the deep scholars' Chinese
You taught yourself with help
from an indulgent father
"Inside blossom
tear drop waits
for night."


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Volleyball tryout Fall 2004

Let me begin with this confession- For the first week of my daughter's high school career I invested far more psychic energy in whether or not she survived her volleyball tryout than whether or not she had the right English teacher. You could certainly argue that this makes my inner volleyball dad more Homer Simpson than Heathcliff Huxtable, but I'm strangely unapolagetic for my overtly misplaced priorities. We learn things in unexpected ways sometimes and I think this most recent experience has reminded me that Spock, the utterly rational Vulcan not Dr. Benjamin, is not the model for parenting or life unless your child has exceptionally pointy ears and a very strong thumb and forefinger.

My first clue came shortly after I posted here a few weeks ago that high school tryouts at schools where most kids play club were essentially a done deal, a kind of volleyball Calvinism. A couple folks pointed out that some of the millions of young players who read this board might be discouraged by this whole predetermination business and react by quitting or not giving their best. I responded that my own daughter was very excited and working very hard for tryouts and I was even encouraging her despite the inherent Calvinist paradox of trying to affect God's will in a universe where God is omniscient enough to divine free will before we actually exercise it. I also started giving my daughter pep talks about Anne Hutchinson's walk to Rhode Island and the Antimonian heresy,its implications for American Democracy, the notion of the "select", and how her chances were better if the coach wanted to run a 6-2 instead of a 5-1. I have to say I still don't understand why kids this age don't listen to their parents more closely. In any case, I was relieved that there no reports of swarms of girls dropping out of tryouts this fall because my post had destroyed their illusions that they would be the outside hitting equivalent of say Julia Stiles in Save the Last Dance or Billy Elliot. fwiw. Had he been a volleyball player, I'm pretty sure that Billy Elliot would have hit goofy-footed. I did have an easier time explaining to my 14 year old that the real world is not much like reality tv. In the real world no one becomes the Frito Delivery man's new wife in six one hour tryouts packaged as weekly episodes, nor does anyone consider finding a woman who has already been married 3 times all that romantic a match. She also informed me that she'd much rather go to the high school in Clueless than the one in Save the Last Dance or American Pie, after which she assured me that she had only seen the tv version of American Pie not the DVD director's cut. Oh yeah, what was my first clue? Despite my insistence that this tryout was a done deal, the closer it got to Labor Day the more palpably nervous we were. Each time we picked her up from the pre-season camp, we would ask her things like “Was it fun?" or “Are you excited about the start of school?" Anything, but the obvious question, “What was your competition like?” She would respond with one word answers, con us into getting something to eat together, then start talking about camp from the perspective of a kid who definitely wasn’t sure how the next few days would turn out. We would ask her more questions “Who the other kids her age?” “Did she like the coach?” “What kind of drills were they doing?” One day, I walked by as the coach was telling her to watch Robyn Ah Mow-Santos in the Olympics that day. I found myself trying to analyze the coach’s tone of voice, body language, looked for clues to my daughter’s fate in every word, as I ran it back on my digital voice recorder. For thirty minutes that day, we searched the internet and the satellite schedules to figure out when the heck and on what NBC sub-channel they broadcast the freaking volleyball match. She caught it in time to see the US miss a bunch of serves in the fifth game against the Dominican Republic, which I suspect has far fewer girls playing club volleyball. School started, as did the three plus days of formal tryouts. The first day we both wound up showing up early to pick her up, we didn’t dare go in the gym during the tryout least our presence got her nervous enough to affect her performance. At one point I tried to peak through the glass doors and Mrs. Boris came up to me and said “Don’t you dare.” In the meantime, I walked around the fringes of pockets of other parents also there much earlier than needed. As I pretended to check my cell phone, I strained to listen to their conversations as they handicapped various girls chances of making the team. My daughter’s name never came up at her position, but I reminded myself that we had come from a different feeder middle school than most of the players. One mother confessed that her daughter decided not to play club last year and that she was hoping to have improved enough anyway. I made a mental check, “One less kid to worry about.” In fact, there were a few players who ultimately made the varsity who never played club. Bottom line, this volleyball dad is miserable, petty, human being, someone who should be doing “Opposition Research” for Carl Rove not someone who should be raising children. While some of the other parents were outwardly encouarging one another about how athletic their daughters were, I told myself they’re just trying to force a compliment back. While some parents were downsizing expectations by saying things like “She’ll just be happy to make the freshman team, we just want her to have a good time, she only started playing last May, etc.", my inner volleyball parent was boiling over with grandiose fantasies for my own kid. While it would have been nice if I sat down and introduced myself to the other parents, I think in retrospect it was wiser for me not to. As much as I tried to pose as a laid back parent just picking his daughter up, inner volleyball dad would have revealed his predatory self. As the tryout ended and girls trickled out of the gym, the next thing I saw was a group of parents who’d been watching the whole time come out as well. The next day went much the same, though this time Mrs. Boris and I coordinated better so that just one of us was dropping her off and the other was picking her up. Again I stood off the fringes of the parents who knew one another. At one point though, I almost slipped badly. The “H” word had come up in the form of “We’re just hoping she grows in the next year or so...”This segued into the Olympics and how this tiny Stacy Skyora, the US libero was doing so well, so there was hope for really small players. This, of course, is the thing I forgot, it was the same mother who was talking about her daughter being small. Had Mrs. Boris been there, she would have stopped me, but I jumped in and said, “Actually, she’s 5’10” or at least that’s what they list her at. She was an outside hitter at Texas A&M.” I have no idea why she looks so short on tv except that she kepts standing in the huddle next to Haneef and Scott, but I don’t blame people for thinking that Skyora is 5’2” based on NBC broadcasts which seem more interested in who posed in FHM than the actual match. I did have the good sense to cut myself short. The next thing I was going to say was,"My older daughter had to block against her in the NCAA’s.” Which the manic inner volleyball dad would have segued into a story about how the Lantagnes always intertwined with our volleyball fantasies in a bad way and thus totally blowing my cover and any pretense that I was anything but a low rent volleyball version of Stephan Capriati or Mary Pierce’s dad. Sort of like For Love or Money, this is our second time through at this high school. Our older daughter went here many years ago and was reasonably successful on the volleyball court. They’re eight years apart and don’t look very much alike, so the other parents outside the gym likely had no idea that we’d been around before or that I was one of those parents who write the local newspaper to complain repeatedly about the lack of local volleyball coverage while his kid is still playing. Anyway, the last thing we would have wanted was for other people to know that and then have the younger one not make the team. Not surprisingly, the other parents went back to their conversation without me and I found myself walking the fringes of the gym and pretending not to look through the glass doors for an oblique view of the drama inside.On the last day of tryouts, I did gather the courage to go inside the gym. The three courts inside seemed to be sorted from tallest and most experienced downwards. I was happy to find that my own kid was on what I thought was an appropriate court and told myself “See, it was a done deal after all.” Still, American Calvinism is less self-defeating than one might think for one simple reason. The “Select” might already be selected, but we don’t know for sure if we are selected nor does anyone else who’s neither God nor the high school volleyball coach. Instead of being fatalistic about God’s will, the same religious tradition spawned Weberian protestant/capitalists who saw hard work as a proof of virtue since everyone devotes his or her life to proving to everyone else that he or she had already been designated as among the “Select” even if the choosing actually happened before the trying. Essentially, a very stern religious determinism played out as something more like “What the Bleep Do We Really Know?”, because of the observer’s quantum influenced perspective. In other words, as far as you’re concerned, you don’t know and you act accordingly by doing everything you can to reassure yourself and convince others that you must be one of the select because of the things you do. That night, we drove home still twitching with nervous energy. It didn’t matter that the next day was the third day of school or that I had various work obligations, all we could see was this bulletin board where the coaches were going to be posting the names of the select and their assigned circles of varsity to freshman grace after the last tryout the next day.
Both Mrs. Boris and I made attempts as we had all summer to say the Heathcliff Huxtable thing. “We're proud of you no matter how hard it turns out and you’re on the team that matters to us, the one of people who know what it means to try their best. The rest is out of your control.” To our daughter, we were saying “Yada, yada....” No matter what we said, the plainer fact was that it would be an emotional challenge for us if her name didn’t show up on that bulletin board. Even though she’s young, she was emotionally insightful enough to remind us that our words were out of synch with what we were feeling. “Are you telling me that I might not make it?” she asked. This was important to her, to us, and we’d invested a lot of time and energy in helping something happen that we did not control. Negotiating this artfully, when I think about it, may be the essence of parenting in general. Saying the “right thing” wasn’t going to make any of us feel the “right way” that evening. The artful thing to do would probably have been to give her reassurances that fell short of making promises and just acknowledge that we were nervous for her too, but I’ll have to save mastery of that for my next life. I was at work the next day. I got a call from my wife saying they would be late because the lists were going up at 6:30 not 6:00. I kept reminding myself that this was my daughter’s life, not mine. I had and should have other priorities. There was nothing I could do to affect what was about to happen. Of course, none of this mattered. I had been restless all day because I knew how much it mattered to her. My cell phone rang at 6:35, a good sign. It was my wife’s number but my daughter’s voice. “Dad, I made the team.” For three months, I was reasonably certain that she would, yet I hadn’t dared verbalize it except to Mrs. Boris or our older daughter (who’s fault these high expectations were in the first place :}). But this was one of those perfect moments for us. It didn’t matter that our neighbor’s dog had killed our cat a few days earlier or that the neighbor was refusing to pay the 1300 dollar vet bill. It didn’t matter that my country year after mission accomplished is in the midst of mounting even accelerating casualties and more terror alerts, a record national deficit, and a broken social safety net, was devoting all its energy to a discussion of whether or not everyone who had a purple heart was really wounded and everyone who was honorably discharged really fulfilled all obligations 32 years ago. This just felt good. That petty vicious over-protective inner volleyball dad didn’t jump out of me to beat his chest or do impressions of Terrell Owens. It was more just a big wave of relief washed over us. We could celebrate instead of console and our daughter had met a goal that was important to her. When she got home, she talked about how her coach cried when she posted the lists because she knew that some players would be so upset by the result. I took this as a sign that the coach cares about the individuals on the cut list as much as her starters, a good thing for someone who spent her own playing career as a star. She also mentioned how the coach was right. Several of the girls took it very hard and she’d taken care not to overreact to her own good news. One of many signs that my own kid’s emotional intelligence is much higher than mine and a much deeper reason for the sane parent and the inner volleyball dad to celebrate. Why do I feel okay about having transformed a high school tryout into a major emotional event in our household? Sometimes, current events inform personal events. For the last month, I’ve watched people argue about what happened or didn’t happen with two men during Vietnam. From any logical perspective, this would seem like a true sign of the fall of the American political system. Elections should be about the present and the future and should take the form of thoughtful debates about significant modern issues. While it’s easy to criticize the media for hyping this cultural garbage, the truth is that the infotainment media in all forms whether it’s Fox News or Dan Rather will air what Americans will tune in to. Emotional time and calendar time are different things. Any novelist or poet would tell you what political pundits can’t seem to understand: that the American psyche has never come to terms with losing the war in Vietnam. In cultural-emotional terms, that war was yesterday not 30 years ago. Before we choose our direction in a time when some insist that the possibility of terrorism must be preempted with invasion even before we can prove the threat exists or that militarily imposed Democracy in Iraq will be the first domino for stability in the Middle East, we must finish processing why the Domino theory of Communism didn’t happen thirty years ago and American military power seemed to have its limits in keeping Southeast Asia anti-communist. At a very primal level, Americans don’t believe it’s about the deficit or prudent legislation. It’s still about Vietnam and whether those who ultimately opposed the war we’re right to do so. Is America the Shaquille/Kobe of the world, simply able to accomplish whatever it wants through military might or are we the US Olympic team suddenly aware of our own vulnerability, forced to cooperate and learn from the rest of the world as a humble superpower?
I’d also suggest that for Iraqis, it’s still about the Crusades and the spirit of the great Kurdish leader, Saladin which was much more than 30 years ago, the broken promise of self-rule delivered through T.E. Lawrence some 80 years ago for Arabs who rebelled against the Turks and immortalized by Lowell Thomas to some of the first American filmgoers in one of the earliest mixes of news and entertainment.
As an adult, I have never met other adults who tell me they were traumatized when they got a C on an English test. Occasionally, they tell me that they didn’t get into the right college, but academic life is not in the heart of most American teenagers. I’ve met any number of adults who have never stopped talking about getting turned down by or not having the sense or nerve to ask the right person to the prom or who didn’t make their football or basketball team. They may be in their late forties now, but as they tell it you know that it was just yesterday for them. I don’t know if the fact that this is true is the sign of a healthy culture. I do know that I’d be foolish to ignore it or to insist that my own child and family were immune from these feelings. I am grateful that my daughter gets to look back on this first tryout as a time she set a goal for herself, worked hard, and got rewarded. I am painfully aware that the rest of her life may well see as many disappointments as happy moments, even in this volleyball season. For now, I’m just happy that she’s happy and that her first couple weeks of high school gave her something she’ll probably always remember fondly.
Every season, someone gets cut whether from high school, the club’s number 1 team, or Winthrop. I imagine if any those folk have been reading this board, they often quietly slip away afterwards. It takes courage to try out for something where someone can and will say no. Volleyball is a venue where our kids do that innumerable times, for club, for high school, for college, for junior national teams. Some of my biggest regrets in life are for those times when I didn’t have the nerve to take the risk or make a serious effort. I’d like to think that all the time we spend here helps give our daughters the confidence to have that nerve whether it’s applying for a job, keeping a husband in line, to go out for another team, to go to war to defend an ideal, or to refuse to go to war to defend an ideal. It takes the same courage to go out and not to make it as it does for those lucky enough to make the team. I hope that courage serves those who made teams and those who didn’t make the right team equally well in the many far more important challenges they have coming to them. I hope my kid grows up to be the sort of person who has the courage to keep trying for what she wants and who can still cry if she ever has to cut someone who gave her best.

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Mitty Invitational Volleyball 2004

I am in the Archbishop Mitty main gym. One side of the gym is covered end to end with volleyball championship banners. On the far court, K.C. Walsh, a six foot left-handed setter who hits and blocks as efficiently as she sets, is helping her top-seeded and national No. 2 Mitty team methodically take apart the No. 11 Nevada Union Miners, aka the Hicks from the Sticks.
To be frank, this semifinal looks like a physical mismatch. The Nevada Union players are solid volleyball players, but look distinctly younger and less powerful than their Mitty counterparts. The one exception is Long Beach State-bound Ali Daley, a dark-haired, powerfully-built senior who is her team's primary defender, hitter and jump server.
If you close your eyes and try to tell where the big hits are coming from, you’ll hear three or four different kinds of pops from the Mitty side of the net and just one from Nevada Union. The other thing that’s apparent is that the Mitty block has gotten into Nevada Union’s heads. After being blocked four or five times, the Miners’ left side has taken to trying to pop the ball over the top of the block where it generally turns into an easy pass for Mitty’s steady and precise back row.
One simple rule of volleyball is that if you can consistently send the ball back over the net faster than it got to you, you usually control the match. I think of this as the “Special Theory of Volleyball Relativity,” the equations that Einstein worked on before he gave up his career on the Swiss Beach Volleyball circuit for his job in the patent office. As a result, we may never know if the cosmos’ best alignment to deal with entropy is a 5-1 or a modified 6-2. Mitty wins the first game 25-8.
The more volleyball I watch, the easier it is to feel that I'm bouncing through time on Bill and Ted's Excellent Jumpserving Adventure. Most people know that Walsh is Kerri’s youngest volleyball playing sister and that there has been a more or less uninterrupted run of Walshes at Mitty from Kerri’s three state volleyball championship teams, through Kelly, and on through K.C.
The first high school playoff match I ever saw was Mitty vs. El Molino in NorCals many years ago. El Molino actually had the higher seed so the match was in Sonoma County. Our older daughter was starting to show an interest in a sport that I knew so little about that I had to ask the guy next to me if the block counted as one of the three touches. A very tall, thin, Mitty sophomore with a remarkable combination of hands, timing and court vision utterly dominated that match. Even though I knew almost nothing about volleyball at the time, it wasn’t hard to see that Kerri Walsh was as close as you get to a sure thing in the sport.
Back to the Mitty Invite. On the near court, 37th ranked Torrey Pines is in the midst of what will turn out to be the match of the tournament with 39th ranked Los Gatos. The teams are near mirror images of one another. Neither team is very tall and both prefer to hit from the left. More important, both teams are notably exacting, graceful, and even telepathic in the way they all seem to not only know their own roles on any play but where and how their teammates are moving to the ball. On one point in the second game, a hard Los Gatos hit is partly dug by a Torrey Pines player at the ten foot line. The ball arcs backwards towards the Mitty wall of championship banners. Most of us in the stands assume that the point is over until the ball mysteriously reappears as a free ball on the Los Gatos side of the net. Rather than admiring their good work at the beginning of the point, Los Gatos is ready and calmly swats the miracle free ball back to the Torrey Pines side of the floor to complete the point.
6-1 Los Gatos junior Nina Sevastopoulos hammers two balls from the left in the first game. In between impressive swings, however, she’s a little tentative. I find myself engrossed in the quick-eyed intensity of Kiana Alzate, Torrey Pines’ very fine lithe left who started the first game with a flurry of tips, angles, and low hard swings that made it look like Torrey Pines would run away with the match. Even when not in the play I find myself watching the way her eyes scan the court as her body prepares to pounce to the ball. I can hear some club coach say that Alzate, with her athleticism, competitive toughness, and court vision, might be an ideal college setter, but at the high school level it’s simply fun to watch her play as her team’s main hitting option. It would also mean that Ellen Scott wouldn't be playing. She's one of those setters who just does her job so well that you barely notice her until it occurs to you that the third ball keeps appearing in just the right spot for her hitters. Torrey Pines won the first game 25-23, but the match is far from over.
My elite club coach acquaintances like to tell me that “High School volleyball isn't real volleyball.”
If JO 18s open teams are your reference, they’re probably right. Still, Los Gatos/Torrey Pines is as compelling a match as I’ve seen at any level. I’m reminded of an old Roger Angell article in the New Yorker where he watches a college baseball game between St. John’s and Yale in the company of long ago Red Sox ace Joe Wood. As it turns out, the pitchers were Frank Viola and Ron Darling who both went on to stardom in the major leagues, but Angell used his article to argue that baseball’s greatness as a sport isn’t about exploding scoreboards, big contract players, and egomaniac owners as much as what happens when two teams get together anywhere, execute the game cleanly, and the players on both teams keep passing the game's unending test of nerves vs. execution until one side fails to answer the last time.
One of the saddest things about the world is that we spend far too much time arguing about what it means when No. 37 beats No. 39 or who should really be No. 1 according to JTawa and far too little time simply enjoying the many great moments that occur during any these tournaments. It honestly shouldn’t matter that JTawa, as hard as he works at this, thinks that your kid’s team is in the top 100 of the nation. It’s far more important that you remember all the times your kid’s team negotiated numerous tests that a year’s worth of high school volleyball can present and that you both savor and enjoy each success. (Of course I say that as the parent of a kid whose team finished dead last at the Mitty Invitational and is currently 3-8 on the season).
Still, if you watch a match like Torrey Pines/Los Gatos and obsess about whether it makes the winner No. 15 in the PrepVolleyball poll or if they should simply hold their ranking, you’re missing something essential about the sport and pleasures of volleyparenthood. When we die, I would bet our national debt that God does not use the BCS or look at PrepVolleyball rankings to determine whether or not we are worthy souls: there is however a rumor that God does use something called the “Pablo.” If your kid’s team doesn’t make the century club even once, I swear that it’s not going to end her life or even leave her volleyball career on the bubble. If you have any sort of reasonable argument that your team belongs near the top 100, you should be enjoying what has to be a great season. Think about this: for every 33-0 team in the country, there is a team or group of teams that is 33 games below .500.
My attention shifts back to the second game of Mitty/Nevada Union. The score is much closer this time. Where Mitty’s “A” game seems to run the offense from middle to right with Erin Downey, Lacey Gera, et. al., this second game they hit more from the left and take a few risky shots at the corners of the ten foot line, a handful of which land out. In the meantime, Nevada Union is serving tough and showing that they play very good defense. With the score tied in the teens, Mitty reasserts control and finishes off the game 25-19.
My mind slips back to the first time I ever saw KC Walsh. I was at a club volleyball tournament at an over-ambitious volleyball center in North East San Jose. The place housed something like 36 sport courts and for one club season all the age groups would show up at this single site. It also marked a turning point in the relationship of the high school game to its club counterpart. Up to then, many clubs saw their club season as a way to improve their high school team. The clubs often were associated closely with a single high school program and its feeder junior highs and there were a lot of different clubs. In fact, it was still unusual for a NorCal club to have more than two teams at any age level. That year, Trent Dilfer, the NFL quarterback, agreed to sponsor a team for his sister, Teagan Lynch, through Mizuno. The result was a South Bay all star team that drew the best players from high schools all over the south bay and from clubs like Bay Club, Central Coast, Griffin, etc.
One clear goal for this team was to win JO’s rather than the Davis festival. Kerri Walsh was one of the building blocks of that team. Between matches, the thing to do was to wander over and watch Club Mizuno dominate its competition. I was going to do exactly that when my younger daughter who was about 4 at the time insisted on going to play in the sand outside.
“What sand?” I asked.
“The sand with the net in it?”
I had little choice. We wandered outside and she found another kid to dig with, the kind where you make holes in the sand not the kind that covers holes on the court. A few feet away, there were two older girls trying to jump serve on the sand court. One of them, who couldn’t have been much more than seven, was coming surprisingly close to getting her jump serve in. The mom of the other digging kid informed me, “That’s Kerri Walsh’s youngest sister.”
"Well, if she grows as tall as her sister, I doubt that she'll ever have the right game for the beach," I thought to myself.
Although the overt all star team approach to club didn’t last that long, the NorCal club scene changed in certain ways. Club hopping became more the norm and some of the commutes were mind boggling. UCLA's Erika Selsor went from Linden to City Beach. USC's Kashi Cormeier came up from Fresno to play for Griffin one year. UOP's Joanna Rentz went from Sonoma to City Beach. Most recently, Daley commuted from Nevada County to City Beach. Club volleyball went from being high school team driven to something that was more like the mergers and acquisitions that were helping to fuel the dotcom bubble in Silicon Valley. City Beach emerged as a dominant club in NorCal and while the club clearly fed a run of a dozen combined state championships between Mitty and St. Francis of Mountain View, it became increasingly clear that club drove high school rather than the other way around and JOs became at least as important if not more important than the CIF playoffs.
Yesterday, my youngest daughter set against KC Walsh’s team for the second time this year. For the second time, El Molino was overmatched by Mitty. While Kerri Walsh was last seen joking with Jay Leno, one of her Club Mizuno teammates retired from playing and now is teaching and coaching at El Molino. If her playing career was built around being an undersized left who overcame a serious knee injury to have a great college career, she has taken on a similar challenge as a coach. El Molino is a public school in a middle class community with one of the smallest enrollments in division 3. While the high school still has a very close relationship with the Empire Volleyball Club, the club itself has changed. Where the club’s best players once automatically seemed to come from El Molino, it now draws its athletes from almost all the high schools not just in Sonoma County but also from Napa to Southern Marin. The current El Molino team has no players from Empire's 18-1 team. Their DS is the only El Molino junior or senior who plays on any of the club's number 1 teams.
One result: rather than being in the part of the draw where parents fantasize about all tournament teams and national rankings, my daughter’s El Molino team landed in the Invitational’s “Failed Four”. Not surprisingly, three of the four teams in that group are public schools. The really surprising thing is that two public schools Torrey Pines and Los Gatos, albeit from two of the wealthiest towns in the state, made it the tournament’s final four in a sport that remains overwhelmingly upper middle class and for the most part much more monochromatic than the state itself. I don't blame club for this, but it's certainly part of the picture.
The bottom quarter of the tournament are really pretty good teams. In fact University of San Diego may be a very good team. When everything went right, things looked surprisingly similar to the top teams in the tournament. It’s just that these teams will make runs of mistakes for more than a couple points in a row. Donna Lafever, a left-handed outside hitter for Aptos, hits as hard as anyone in the tournament. K.C. Fox, headed to Portland from Aptos is very solid. USDHS has Brooke Buringrud, a 6-3 outside committed to Arizona who clearly had drawn the interest of a couple college coaches watching from the back wall of the gym.
One measure of the Mitty tournament’s relative prestige is that it’s one of the few places you’ll see more than a handful of college coaches during the high school season. The fact that they were watching these bottom quarter matches is a measure of how strong the field really is. (Either that, or no one told the college dudes when the top teams were playing).
Ashton Rossi, the Uni setter, is also noticeably poised and consistent. Santa Barbara has strong hitting middles and a generally steady back row, but clearly was having some problems running what looked to be a modified 4-2. Aptos, down 0-2 in its match with University, fought back to take an 18-6 lead in its third game only to see University then turn it on and take the game and the match. El Molino started very slowly against Santa Barbara. In the first game, they were hampered by 4 straight hitting errors to open the game. In the second game, they missed 3 serves in a row. El Molino came alive to take the third game with Santa Barbara having serious problems hitting from the right side, Santa Barbara won the fourth by playing some spectacular defense to keep the score tied 19-19 and showed more poise down the stretch and took advantage of El Molino’s difficulties covering tips. Aptos then took El Molino in 5 and University handled Santa Barbara easily.
As I sit in the stands, one of the Los Gatos dads chats with me about the match below between his trips to fetch water bottles and food for his kid. We talk about Joe Ripp, who won a state title at Las Gatos almost eleven years ago; Katie Eldridge Ripp, who was a UOP All American; and the re-emergence of Los Gatos as a South Bay power because of the school's ties to Vision. Down below, Los Gatos is asserting itself in the match. Alexa Anderson, a very complete leftside who is still working her way back from a serious knee injury, has hit well from the left. Bryte Nielson, a tall left handed Setter/Rightside, is starting to hit more and opening up Los Vision's offense. The second game between Gatos and Torrey ends with the identical 25-23 score as the first but with the result switched.
On the far court, the third game of the Mitty/Nevada Union match looks a lot like the first. Each time I glance over, Mitty's block, with 6-5 freshman Amanda Gil, appears to have Nevada Union frustrated. Most high school teams are happy to have one strong middle. With Downey, Gil, and Shannon Lowell, Mitty has 3. In addition, they have 3 players who set the ball well, and what feels like an endless supply of backrow players like Katie Glomb who are so effective that the other team's hitters often look less capable than they really are. The match ends with Mitty winning 25-12.
As much as I admire Mitty, I'm a little sad. I remember nine years ago when my older daughter's team ventured into D1 in Norcals on Mitty's side of the draw. Mitty sent someone to videotape a playoff match in Sonoma County. Nevada Union's rise has offered hope for the public school teams not on the peninsula. Without ties to an established national club program, Nevada Union has emerged as a volleyball power in a part of the state that some think of as the middle of nowhere. Even though, they have a bigger enrollment than Mitty, it would have been fun to see them do the David and Goliath thing. While they got put back in their place a bit at this tournament, they had a very solid showing.
I expect that the Hicks will be back. Although Daley graduates, they have two very good freshmen who already contribute to the varsity in Sarah McAtee and Christian Woodruff. One good thing about the no division shopping rule in CIF volleyball, it's given the public schools one division where they can dominate the privates: D1. Nevada Union and Aptos are both Division 1 CIF schools.
I take a break between games two and three to search the Mitty campus for statues of Brandi Chastain and Kerri Walsh, its two most famous female athletic alumni. Instead I find a football game, a Thomas Kinkade art gallery, and rows of neatly kept classrooms. The odd thing about Silicon Valley in general is that despite the billions that have run through the valley, almost none of the architecture is especially memorable. San Jose may also be the wealthiest city ever to not be able to support a symphony orchestra. I don't find any statues though I have this goofy vision of a bronze of Chastain in a sport bra and Walsh in a bikini as two products of a Catholic School. This year's Miss America and Sports Illustrated Swimwear model Marissa Miller are both former volleyball players. As someone who remembers the feminism of the 60s and 70s, it's easy for me to make some snarky comment about women's sports taking an odd turn when it came to feminine empowerment. After some thought, I realize that the echo-boomers who grew up with Title 9 simply see the world differently than their parents and understand that you can be feminine while still kicking butt on the court or in the field. In other words, they may actually be healthier than their SUV driving-Vietnam-Watergate haunted parents who argued that Title 9 was the path to medical school and the board room (something that's also been true).
The third game between Gatos and Torrey Pines is not point for point as Torrey Pines breaks out to a sizeable lead much to the delight of the group of Torrey Pines dads near me. You can tell because they're all wearing burgundy colored polo shirts to match their daughters' jerseys. Torrey Pines has started to hit more from the middle with Laura Eck and Katie Mann. In addition, Los Gatos is having a rough time with one rotation where TP's Courtney Hall hits one of those left corner serpentine approach serves. At one point, Ripp calls a timeout to tell his players to stop thinking and start playing. The talk gets Los Gatos to rally but it falls short on point 19.
It does occur to me that most any team in this tournament would have beaten the El Molino team that played Mitty eleven years ago One of El Mo's lefts was 5-4 back then and that wasn't all that odd. The Los Gatos dad tells me that his own daughter at 5-9 is going to be a college libero because she's just not tall enough to play high level D1. She already mostly plays back row on her high school team. Similarly, there were good high school teams back then where not all of the front row players could hit hard and down. Almost all the teams here have bench players who do that. As I talk to the Los Gatos dad, I also find myself pondering the odd way volleyball gossip flies through a gym. Within hours sometimes, almost anyone there who cares to will know the latest recruiting story, club scandal, etc. through this early form of wi-fi.
In the fourth game, Torrey Pines jumps to a lead and it seems inevitable that Los Gatos is going to give in. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Los Gatos came very close to beating Mitty in a three game match at an early season tournament. Perhaps it's this hope that keeps them fighting here. For the first time in the match, Los Gatos’ bigger block starts to assert itself. There are almost no swing points in this game. Each point is fiercely contested as players on both teams dig balls that they couldn't possibly have seen.
With Torrey Pines up by four and closing in on 20, Alzate takes a full swing from the left. LG soft blocks it and just barely picks up the ball before it falls to the sideline, the setter somehow transforms that desperate dig into a perfect four and a commanding lead for TP becomes a Los Gatos point and a tighter match. After that, it's point for point. Alzate tools the block. At 22-23, Anderson has her hard four dug by a TP back row hand before it finds the floor. The next point, Anderson hits a four that looks like it may sail out but then catches the endline to get to 23-24. This is the sort of match that deserves to end on yet another great rally or some floor rattling kill. It doesn't. It ends instead on a ball landing well past the backline and a very relieved Torrey Pines celebration on their side of the court with the 3rd 25-23 score of the match. The Los Gatos dad disappears quietly as he goes to console his daughter and her team.
If I were a real reporter, I would have stayed for the third place and championship matches. I also would have caught the name of every player I saw who played well and I would get all the names exactly right. I certainly would have covered the middle eight teams in this tournament some. All these things take considerable commitment, attention to detail, etc. and the people who normally do this for you take on a lot. Instead, I'm just a volleyparent, which means that I watch my own kid's games with rapt attention no matter how big or exciting the match in the other gym may be. I generally don't talk to coaches or players from other teams, ‘cause it would embarrass the heck out of my kid. Instead I sit there, thinking that rally scoring makes time go far too quickly.
At the end of her last match, we go home so we can get something to eat and she can get back to the two days of homework that accumulates from missing classes to play volleyball in San Jose. Many years ago, I learned that the finals of high school and club tournaments can be very anti-climactic, not because they aren't great matches, more because the vast majority of the spectators are parents who simply go home as soon as their own kid's matches are done. The Mitty tournament is extremely well run. The schedule and format are clearly laid out. There's a coach's break room. The level of sportsmanship among the teams is high. They have an appropriate number of bathrooms. Even if all the lights went out in Cupertino the night before and a couple teams had a rough Friday night, that wasn't Mitty's fault unless you really do believe in the Touchdown Jesus thing in South Bend. In any case, Mitty takes the time to put up a single court for the last two matches and roll out the bleachers so the final feels like a final.
This year's Mitty Invitational wasn't the big shootout of national powers a la Durango. In some ways, it was really more about continuity and tradition. The conventional lead would be that Mitty, clearly the strongest team in its own tournament, kept alive its bid for a national championship. My less standard view is that it's the last year of its run of Walshes, who is doing her bit for volleyball younger sisters everywhere, and there's Mitty's shift from all City Beach to Vision and Yahoo and Golden Bear. Los Gatos and Torrey Pines are re-establishing themselves as state powers. Nevada Union is working to build its own volleyball tradition. St. Francis (Mountain View) and El Molino are coached by coaches who were great players in their own time who are struggling to keep winning traditions alive while they try to teach talented teams how to compete as their school's feeder clubs shift the way they do things.
If you're around long enough you get a feel for each of these stories and the ongoing interaction between the club and high school versions of the sport and their relationship to that big scholarship in the sky, as opposed to that scholarship in the Big Sky Conference. Who knows, maybe your kid will be joking around with Jay Leno after the Beijing games, maybe she'll be coaching and teaching at some obscure high school, maybe she'll be serving her country in the Middle East or North Korea, or maybe she'll be doing stem cell research or running against Jenna Bush for the presidency. I, personally, can't think that far ahead.
In three years, which will most certainly come at rally speed, my kid will hopefully be playing (if they're still invited after this year) in her final Mitty Invitational, making it our final one as well. The contenders are bound to be different, but I suspect that the Mitty Invitational will still be the high school tournament to go to in Northern California, it'll still be well run, college coaches will still be lined up on the back wall to watch the teams there, and it'll be as good a proof as any that "High School volleyball can very much be worth paying attention to" and that even the losers there can take some pride in just being in the field.


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Far Western Volleyball 2005 Comedy of Earrings

I was watching glancing at a very exciting game between Empire 16 Mizuno and Colorado Performance last night. The score of the first game was 24-23 and it was Colorado's game point. Up to then, it had been an excellent match of a big power team, Empire and a tenacious acrobatic and slightly undersized Colorado team. Empire normally gets a lot of points from their rightside players hitting on two or even on overpasses and Colorado was doing a great job of defensing it and forcing Empire to depend more on the four,which they do well too. CP looked to be very strong on out of system points as well. Suddenly, the referee started looking closely at one of the CP players and pulls out a yellow card. Apparently, the CP player still had an earring in and game point CP suddenly became Empire's game.

The next game started out point for point then Empire broke to a slightl lead at 11-9. The game wound up 25-13. I've neer seen this. Everyone on the sideline, was "Wow, what could that coach possibly hae said or done?" before they realized it was an earring that had prompted the yellow card and the free point. But, I've never seen a better reason to give to your volleyball daughter about why piercings are a bad thing :}.

I did think about i some afterwards.a) earrings etc have always been verboten.b) at this age, it's a player and a coach's responsibility to know that as part of being prepared.c) blah blah blah, it still sucked even though my daughter's club benefitted.d) I guess the ref just happened to notice when he noticed and if you're an honest ref that 's what you have to do. the calls stay the same whether it's game point or 21-4)

I was thinking the ultimate cool thing would have been for the other coach to order his server to serve the ball into the ground on purpose. Of course, no sane caoch would do that in the middle of a qualifier. and it would have shown up the ref.And this wasn't a bad call or a wrong call, just unfortunate timing, but it was really cool in that movie "Best of the Best" where Phillip Rhee doesn't knock out his helpless Korean opponent who killed his older brother. Anyway, the Koreans win the big Tae Kwan Do match because of it, then they come and give the Americans the medals and all their nuclear weapons, because the Americans had true honor and one of them was actually Julia Roberts's brother and the other was Sean Penn's brother.. that was just the movies though, could you imagine if something like that had happened say in Olymic gymnastics..with the US and Korea or say in speedskating.

Anyway, Empire 16 played well yesterday and won their pool.

fwiw If Jammers is not one of the top 25 15's teams in the country, I'd be really scared to see Kiva Red. Jammers has a great setter, monster hitting left in #25, and a back row that routinely does barrel rolls and actually digs up the ball consistently in the process. In 4 games, I saw them out of position once (I'm not a volleyball coach though) and all their hitters read blocks and spots extremely well. Other than the morning delay due to he labor walk out, NCVA seems to be running a very efficient tournament. I didn't see a single older person forced to stand while parents whose kids weren't even playing hogged seats. Matches seemed to flow smoothly (at least on the couple courts I was watching). I also wanted to mention tha I've always liked having the sitting volleyball team playing in the midst of Far Westerns, it's inspiring to watch and keeps things like yellow cards for earrings in perspective. Best of luck to all the clubs there, and if you're a coach or a player, stay out of the tattoo/piercing parlor on Viriginia St., yesterday proved that only bad hings happen when young women get their bodies pierced. I also don't think the incident helped the business of the jewelry vendors in the sales area. In previous year, it was mostly volleyball related stuff, this year there's more of a mix, but can you imagine what coaches think now when they see their players hanging out at the jewelry booth?

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Far Western Volleyball 2005 Part 1

In the middle of their first game with Yahoo 15, the eventual winner of this year’s Reno tournament, my daughter’s 15th seeded team blew a small lead. Ultimately, they fought hard and played well enough to just barely lose the game 25-23. The volleyball parent inside me though was boiling over, I’m sure I sounded like someone with B(no offense to anyone out there who actually has Tourette’s). In their next match with Gold Cal 15’s, a very solid team, they had a 19-17 lead and ended the first game with something like 5 hitting errors and a missed serve. I have no idea what I may have said or what kind of faces I made, it’s just that Mrs. Boris is always around to remind me and threaten me with divorce. I suppose it’s a good thing for me that I’m the only parent who does these things.

I know the drill. When bad things happen to your team, you just go to some private place inside yourself where you blame all your daughter’s teammates, the coach, the referee, and the club director. The trick, though, is keeping all that stuff private and never quite saying it aloud. Instead, you learn some mantra where you smile a lot and say encouraging things. Sometimes I’m convinced thatBwould make an incredible volleyball parent. In the meantime, I’m learning to meditate and stuff and trying to learn to gnash my teeth at less than 110 decibels.

Even though my daughter’s club doesn’t go to JO’s. Qualifiers are one of those venues where all the demons come out for volleyparents. First off, there are those bid things that only seem to be slightly less mysterious than processes that end with white smoke coming from the chimney of the Vatican or with Ryan Secrest sending someone home. This is almost guaranteed to evoke a volleyball version of King Lear where very good teams insist that they should have had the opportunity to be challengers, or er....not like challengers...In the meantime, no one knows precisely how the Lears at USVA actually figure out the whole “at large” thing and whose daughters are truly deserving (hint, there’s this device called a “database”, it might not be all that hard to ensure that everyone is looking at the same results)

Second, they have that Junior National tryout where they essentially winnow down the field of prospective junior volleyball idols to a precious unusually tall few. Finally, there are all those college coaches who used to spend most of their time looking at 17’s and 18’s. Now you actually see them prowling around 15’s matches, you definitely see them at 16’s, and had I watched 14’s, I imagine one or two might have popped up there for giant setters who commute to Northern California all the way from Seattle. For those of us who are secretly using our soon to be discretionary social security and IRA savings on the college scholarship lottery, whatever in us that is “nuts” is just bound to distill out at or around qualifiers.

Before I stray too far, the one thing that really impressed me about Yahoo 15 was that when it came close to actually dropping a game to a darkhorse like my daughter’s Empire team, they simply stepped the defense up a notch or thirty. They dug some very hard hit balls and made it clear that if anyone was going to take a game from Yahoo there it wasn’t going to be on a Yahoo mistake. It’s one of those qualities that has nothing to do with height or armspeed and everything to do with the kind of skills volleyball can teach that might carry over to realms outside learning to hit balls over a 7’4” net. It was a big step for Empire to be hitting balls like that in that particular situation and the evil parent in me was blind to that fact in the lust for the big upset that night.

I’d also mention that someone keeps mentioning 9 and 13 for Yahoo, both very good all around players, and I don’t know if anyone mentions 33 and 5 for that team or their libero. 33 has a great arm from the left and hunted down a ball or two beyond the far corner of the backline with a vigor that made one think “libero” rather than big L1. I imagine that beating Yahoo will always be one of the signs of a successful season for Empire teams. All of the matches in that particular Saturday pool were very competitive. Long Beach was an impressive all around offensive team. Gold Cal 15’s is a very athletic team with a solid left in 16 and a very entertaining setter in 5 who is one of these players who at first glance doesn’t look like she quite fits in because she’s very slight and not very tall, then every now and then she gets a ball to hit and she smokes it. In Prepvolleyball respect terms, the 15’s at Far Westerns were sort of unprepossessing, possibly because there are 3 national qualifiers on the same weekend. Yahoo was the one seed and it was 14th and Jammers, the other finalist, was down in Don Ho territory. I have no real idea what the national top 10 teams looks like, but the field and level of play in Reno were certainly respectable. I’d say that the very top might not have been on a par with last year’s 15’s, but any of the 3 teams who got bids in Reno this year certainly belong in any open field. I didn’t get to watch NorCo much though, which is too bad because I wanted to ask about all those dads who were wearing the yellow doo rags and looked like Cher’s friends from the movie Mask had all decided to watch the Norco/Colorado Performance match. I’ve mentioned Jammers in two other posts, but they were fluid enough that it doesn’t really matter who they beat or lose to. It was just fun to watch them play. Vision 15 is very much in that club’s playing tradition. Tall, well trained players, who don’t make a lot of mistakes on the court. Whenever #2 hit from the right there always seemed to be this flutter of something interesting is going to happen here.

I’ve said more than a few times that I’m not a fan of Reno. I should say, however, that I have come to like the facility. It’s big, clean, well lit, and there are lots of bathrooms. To the shopping center across the street, instead of threatening to tow every cheapskate parent who tries to save the 5 dollar/day parking at the convention center why not just offer parking to anyone who spends forty dollars at the center that day? One of the stores there is an actual supermarket and volleyball parents have been known to shop for items like bottled water, fruit, etc. For a town with so many pawn shops and check cashing stores, you’d think there’d be a way to turn a “problem” like that into an three day empowerment zone :}. The other thing I like is the music in the casino parking lots. I know it probably has subliminal messages in it like “play the slots some more, don’t go to your car quite yet,” but making the long walk to the car after a couple tough losses is hard enough, it’s nice to have something to distract me from the evil volleyball parent voices in my head. The other good thing about Reno is that some day soon, Constantine Maroulis will be playing the small casinos here and doing patter between songs about his friendship with Paula Abdul and how he still talks on the phone with Simon Cowell. After a relatively smooth first day, there was a lot of frustration with pool assignments, late announcements about crossover matches, etc. It’s getting so bad that Tom Delay was quoted saying something vaguely threatening about the NCVA. Rather than having NCVA send the House majority leader and lead fund raiser golfing in Scotland and front row seats for the London production of Rent, I would suggest NCVA consider the following.I know it’s not an easy job, but court assignments and the question of who plays who where are basically mathematical.(there’s a finite number of courts and a finite number of teams...which means that you don’t have to be Kurt Godel to solve it) My bigger problem with Reno and NCVA though is this. Reno is not in Northern California. I checked a map and Reno is actually in a state called Nevada, one time home of Howard Hughes and Greg Maddux. I know the City of Reno probably gave NCVA a great deal and as I said it’s a nice facililty, but asside from having more second hand smoke than any place west of the Carolinas, it’s not right to have these kinds of delays for kids who are still in school. For most NCVA families, Reno is a minimum of 4 hours away. The kids already miss school for all of Friday and if they're in an AM pool you choose between depriving them of sleep or considering leaving last period Thursday. When your daughter’s first match on Sunday starts officially at 2:30 PM and she potentially has three matches, somebody’s priorities are out of whack. Either get the court assignments cleaned up or have your own regional in a place that’s central to the region so the tournament doesn’t mess up two different school weeks. end part 1

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Far Western Volleyball 2005 pt 2 (FAB Fiftyitis)

Speaking of priorities, I was standing by the Splash sideline in their Saturday match with Empire 16 when a the Splash left hit a hard ball down the line. The players on the Splash sideline started to howl at the referees “out” call and their coach turned around and let them know in no uncertain terms that their job was to support their team not to second guess referees. That done, he then turned to the ref said something and the call was reversed. He turned back to the players and more or less said,”See, that’s the way we do it.”I don't necessarily like "military style" coaching, but I found myself thinking, hey even if this guy doesn't win the match, that was pretty cool.

It was one of those point for point matches that Empire eventually won in the third after breaking out of a 9-9 tie with a block and a backrow kill by the Empire setter. An Empire Middle who was playing for the first time in four weeks after a stress fracture put the match away with a block. Splash had maybe the best 8th grader I’ve ever seen #1 playing on the left. Primary passer at times, unbelievably athletic hitter, and remarkable poise. She looked to be 5’8" at most.

Her dad was cheering her on loudly from the seats in the back and in true volleydad fashion I started trying to figure out how tall the father was and then wondering if this #1 might eventually have more of a future as a setter.It occurs to me though that I’m not a coach, player, or college recruiter, I’m just a parent who sometimes writes very long posts about tournaments I attended. I really don’t know anything about this stuff and why the heck am I concerned with kids I’ll never meet?

I just happened to have a copy of the DSM4 on hand and looked up Fab Fiftyitis. Fab Fiftyitis: A syndrome that first appeared in the late 1990’s among junior volleyball coaches, parents, and sometimes players. Originally named for the only reason most people even subscribed to Volleyball Magazine, it is a self-image disorder very similar to anorexia in which victims insist that their own players or daughters are never tall enough, fast enough, or jump well enough to be noticed by college recruiters.

symptoms Axis 1:a) victims never really see volleyball matches in the present tense.They talk constantly about potential and constantly compare all setters to Misty May and all hitters to Kristin Folkl. (see Lantagneosity, a now very rare condition that disappeared after the spread of the internet)b) small but very good volleyball players become virtually invisible even when they have an impact on the actual match.c) they talk repeatedly about a single kill or even about how they saw a hand at the top of the antenna. (see also Aspergers Syndrome)but forget about who won the match.d) They obsess over players or children not being recruited or not appearing on lists compiled by someone called Jtawa.

Axis 2:a) in prolonged cases, victims appear to be obsessed with volleyball and post constantly on complaining about various injustices. They do not, however, enjoy watching their own kids play anymore.b) victims are often seen at their children’s volleyball matches yelling at referees, criticizing playing time, making faces, etc. In some cases, they start hanging out with coaches after matches and drinking to excess after failing to qualify (see Alcoholism)c) victims will know the names of all division 1 head coaches better than the names of their children’s teachers.d) sometimes parents/coaches who actually get kids on the right lists or even the Fab 50 itself become more seriously ill than those who don't. they often confuse this with being a great parent or coach and take the credit for themselves. (see Delusions of Grandeur)

Treatment:While children generally grow up, victims of Fab Fiftyitis are sometimes trapped in emotional adolesence in which they over idenitify with their own child’s success on the court possibly for lack of other sources of self-esteem in their own lives. This can be confusing for others because they will often do adult things very competently. They drive, they pay club bills, they hold responsible jobs during the week, but they will become unhinged at volleyball events with surprisingly little provocation.

One way to deal with this in the short term is to tell them that they are either a really good coach and you appreciate everything that person has done or that their daughter is really coming along and got cheated out of appearing on whater list she might have appeared on.This will generally placate the individual and allow you enough time to get yourself out of danger.

Longterm treatment is more difficult. Scholarship offers certainly help, but even then serious sufferers will then often start complaining about playing time and coach’s using the wrong offense for the available talent. Anti-depressants can also help to minimize symptoms.

There has been reported success with a 7 step brief therapy process.

1) Victims must first admit to themselves that volleyball really isn’t all that important even if your kid is really good at it.

2) Victims must accept responsiblity for going about their lives as if the above is actually true.

3) Victims should enjoy their player/children’s progress. They must stop comparing them to other players especially ones who don’t really exist (see High Performance Tryouts). Say “What a great kill.”“Great hustle”, etc. Instead of “At the college level that would have been blocked.” or “Too bad that left is only 5’6”

4) Victims should be thankful that their children are doing something healthy, wholesome, and are working on a goal whether they win or lose. mantra: “They could be dating Charlie O’connell” or “Emulating the parties on the OC” “Kevin Federline is not calling her cellphone”

5) Victims should understand that even though they offer scholarships to 10th graders, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing or even right. Don’t you remember kids who started talking about college applications, studying for the SAT, as 9th graders, used to be the nerdy ones. Your daughter can actually enjoy junior volleyball without ever even getting a sniff as a d3 walkon. It may be healthier not to worry about these things until at least the end of junior year.

6) Many successful adult women were never on the Fab 50. Some of them were even star college players before they became successful adults.

7)Enjoy being a parent/coach and have fun with your kid while she’s still a kid. Make sure that tournament’s stay fun regardless of the result.

In the last year or so, there have been genuinely scary stories about epidemics of food poisoning, flu, staph infections passed around at various big volleyball tournaments through shared water bottles, dirty sport courts, etc. Once I perused the DSM IV, I realized that FabFiftyitis is really the most serious epidemic threatening the health of our sport, even worse than the NCVA’s impression of Bud Selig.

Some time Saturday night ( I think it was still Saturday when the PM pools ended) , I decided to find a support group for junior sports parents. It helped. I do have to say that AAU basketball parents and tennis parents are far scarier than volleyball parents. Then again, some of them get to live off their kids the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, we don’t.

In any case, I’m lucky that Mrs. Boris doesn’t have Fab Fiftyitis and is helping me work through this debilitating disease so I can someday return to being an actual effective parent and role model on Spring weekends in places like Reno and Fresno. I do have to confess that someone came out of the AA group next door and told me he used to be a volleyball coach who had overheard us and he was sure glad that he wasn't nearly as sick as we were. That sort of hurt.On Sunday, my kid’s team lost its only match to AZ Sky in excruciating fashion and I even smiled a couple times and my daughter didn't even play much.

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