They dont wear Speedos and their pictures dont appear on the covers of sports magazines. They arent 20-somethings, but they take their volleyball as seriously as anyone and they have been playing for at least 30 years. Welcome to beach volleyball Alexandria style.
Its Thursday morning and, even though the dew is staying on the grass a bit longer and it takes the sun a bit longer to warm things up, the tape is out, the shoes are off and the weekly volleyball game at Windmill Hill Park is underway. They wouldnt tell the average age, but Peter Freeman, at 72, is currently the oldest player.
Freeman, one member of the volleyball gang who still has a job, had to leave to go to work at Northern Virginia Family Services after the match. This game has been going on for a long while, he said. Jon and Tim have been here forever, and the rest of us come and go. Its great fun and we get some exercise as well.
Tim is Tim Elliot. We can remember games back to 1985, and there were many years before that when we didnt keep track, he said. We play here on Thursday morning and indoors at Jungles Gym on Eisenhower Avenue on Tuesdays. It is truly a pick-up game; we welcome anyone.
Anyone and that includes the man driving the trash truck, who stopped in for five minutes and then went on his way. We always ask the women who jog by to stop. They always say that they will be back and then they never jog through here again. I think they are warning people about us, Elliot said.
When the games began, the sand court wasnt even sand. Peter Schumire, who died last year, got the city to bring in the sand.
For some reason, the court was filled with wood chips. Can you imagine playing volleyball on wood chips? They were big, too, said Bob, who stopped by when the gang didnt appear at Firehook on time for coffee. Some groups go for beer to discuss their prowess on the court, and these guys go for coffee.
The sand isnt quite perfect. We dont think its the right kind of sand, but the kids like it, Freeman said. So, according to some volleyball players, do neighborhood cats. Newcomers are warned not to dive too deeply for a good dig.
Players come and go, but the group usually includes between four and 10 players. Someone is usually hurt, but we get new people from time to time, said Jon Wilbour.
One of those who was hurt for some time is Norm Lisy. He is back after an accident that left him hospitalized for more than a month. He was riding his bike when an SUV ran a stop sign and hit him. Hes back on the court and on his bike.
I love playing, Lisy said. Its great fun.
Soon, the gang will move to only indoor games but will be back next summer. Anyone with an interest in volleyball and camaraderie is invited to join them.