It's official! Three time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor will be in Pottstown for the annual volleyball rumble June 21-23. The Pottstown Rumble is one of the nations largest grass volleyball tournaments and is played on the Memorial Park fields. With May-Treanor attending it will give the event even more star power. Thousands from around the United States and some from other countries make Pottstown their home for the weekend.
And I can say that I have been a part of it playing in the tournament with different partners over the years. Volleyball was my sport and an outlet for me for over 25 years but time moves on and playing competitively has to come to an end.
Early on I played in three different leagues per week and couldn't get enough. I wasn't playing two man beach style volleyball at the time. But twice a week I played against some very good athletes. Guys that could set and others that could drill the ball with a powerful spike.
And that what I liked to do. Take the days frustration out on that white ball and smash the snot out of it when someone set you up with a perfect ball. Bang! And I'd get a big smile on my face. Other times I'd get roofed and the ball blocked back into my face. But that was part of the fun.
On the third night I ran a co-ed team in the Norco league with wife Deb, other family members and friends. This was a good league but not nearly as intense but a fine way to enjoy the game with family.
Then twenty-two years ago Ken Kaas a true volleyball lifer started the Volleyball Rumble with a bunch of friends. From the start the tournament was a big hit. I played a number of years with Ken on the six man teams, some years on the same squad other times across the net from him.
I don't remember if I played in the very first Rumble, but got to play a number of times. Some years I had a justified conflict as our daughter Kelli's birthday is on June 22nd. She is a married adult with kids these days and not as concerned that Deb and I don't spend the entire day with her. But back then I'd get the question, "You aren't going to play volleyball and miss my birthday are you dad?" Of course my answer was that the day was hers to do what she wanted and we would be with her. I'd sneak down early to watch a little bit but family came first.
Other years I'd work for The Mercury and photograph the event. I think this was harder knowing I had no family commitments and still I couldn't get on the court. But on the years I signed up to play, I couldn't wait for the weekend to get here. Sometimes I wondered why I played. The weather would get hot into the 90s and as I got older the guys around me got younger and the court seemed to get bigger. That couldn't have been due to the fact that I was over forty. Nah! And come Monday morning I'd be scratched up from diving trying to dig balls before they'd touch the grass. My knees ached and right shoulder would be sore as I hobbled into work. But it never stopped me. I loved volleyball.
Some years we'd get beaten badly by teams. Other years we'd go far in our tourney bracket and into the final rounds. When teamed up with my brother Gary one year, I was dragging with high temps and the sun beating down on me. If we won our last game against our bracket opponent we'd make it into the medal round. Sweating, I told him let's just lose this and go home, but that didn't happen and we continued to play. You give it what you got and I couldn't quit no matter how I was feeling.
The Rumble grew and grew. Kaas is like a carnival barker, but humble. He always has a new idea up his sleeve to push at the event. Early on he held a swim suit contest. One year he brought out a motorcycle stuntman to jump across the Manatawny Creek to keep drawing interest. On opening morning at the start he sends up booming fireworks to let people know what's going on. Last year they had Gary Fry owner of the Craft Ale House and also an avid volleyball player serving up the local Sly Fox Beers inside the beer tent. And now one of the highlights for the never tiring showman will be to have an Olympic gold medalist as part of the festivities.
But Kaas is the first one to say that he couldn't keep the tournament running without his family and close knit friends. They start setting up piles of nets and fencing during the middle of the week. Once the suns sets they don't just sit down in a chair with a cold drink. You'll see them bumping, setting and spiking getting together for pickup games on a nice evening.
You can spot him wearing a red, white and blue rumble shirt, running around the grounds with a walkie talkie in hand and biting down on the short stub of a stogie.
I'm scheduled to shoot photos again this year and will look forward to seeing some of the old faces I know that keep playing the game and the younger ones that move around effortlessly from corner to corner heads better than I could have ever wanted to be.
Let's count on some sunny skies and good weather. Keep it in the low 90s to have these guys and girls sweat a little to get that victory. Welcome to Pottstown Misty May-Treanor. You will be surprised to see how a small town can put on a big-time tournament.