There are a lot of things that make outdoor volleyball appealing — the feel of sand or grass between your toes, the late afternoon sun, and playing a game where teamwork is mandatory, and the minimum required equipment is a bathing suit.
After resurrecting the sport last summer through the Whistler Outdoor Volleyball Association, league director Scott Rogers is getting ready to launch the 2008 season in June with a few small changes.
There will be three divisions this year — the competitive A League on Monday nights, the intermediate B League on Tuesdays, and the recreational C League on Wednesdays. All games will take place on three sand courts at Meadow Park, as well as two grass courts that will be set up to accommodate the larger B and C Leagues. Play time will run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on game nights.
Although Rogers started a two-person competitive beach volleyball league last season, he decided to change the format this year to allow for three person teams, with room on the bench for a fourth player as a substitute.
“We tried competitive two on two beach volleyball last season, which is the purest form of beach volleyball, which is very demanding for the players physically and technically,” said Rogers. “This being Whistler, it was also demanding as far as the commitment goes, with players missing games for work and things. Three on three is nice because it’s still competitive, but allows a little more flexibility for teams. If they have a fourth person, then each team will still be able to put three players on the court if someone can’t make it, or is injured, or on holiday, or whatever.”
According to Rogers the three-on-three format is attracting a lot of attention, and he has heard that some players from UBC are planning to make trips to Whistler to play. “It should be a pretty high quality division,” said Rogers.
The intermediate and beginner categories will feature four-on-four co-ed play — a female player from each team has to be on the court at all times — and each team should have six players on the roster for substitutes. Each league will also have up to 15 teams.
Rogers is launching the league with a team registration meeting and social on Monday, June 2 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Longhorn Saloon. The first games are on June 16, 17, 18.
The cost is $200 to register a team for approximately 10 weeks of volleyball, which covers court fees and insurance. As well, Sportstop is sponsoring the league this year and is providing each team with a high-quality synthetic leather ball to practice and play with.
Rogers credits the municipality for helping the league, creating an additional sand court at Rainbow Park last year and supporting the league this year by helping to book the park and maintain the courts.
Rogers says more than 200 people played in league games over the course of last year, which was one of Whistler’s wettest on record, and he’s confident that they will draw 230 or 240 players this year.
Part of the reason for the growing popularity of the sport is the social aspect of the league — Rogers regularly hosts parties and other events for players, and he’s hoping to have a weekly league social night this year. Another reason is the quality of play.
“Even in the recreational league, where everybody is having a good time, by the end of the summer you could see the skill level had noticeably increased,” he said. “Players that didn’t have much experience last year would probably feel comfortable in the intermediate division this year. Same thing goes with the intermediate players, I’m expecting some of them to jump to the competitive league this year.”
If you’re not sure what league you belong in, Rogers has posted more information on WOVA’s website, www.wova.ca.