Bobbie Hitchcock was exercising in UVAC’s warm water pool a few years ago when some veteran water volleyball players persuaded her to give their sport a try.
“I thought, ‘that’s got to be the dumbest sounding game I’ve ever heard of,” said Bobbie, who had been a volleyball player in college. She resisted for a few weeks.
“And then I decided, ‘What the heck, I’ll join them.’ And it was such wild chaos, and such great body movement that I was hooked after one day.”
Standing outside UVAC’s doors on a sunny March afternoon, the brisk wind whipping her still-damp hair, Bobbie reflected on the sport and its players.
“Our shared love of this somewhat ridiculous game is what binds us all,” she said. She quickly added that members of the group have become much more than fellow exercisers, and that they know and care for each other very much outside the pool.
How does UVAC Water Volleyball work…?
UVAC Water Volleyball was formally established in 2014 by UVAC Swim School Director, Karen Cox. It developed haphazardly from a regular water exercise class, where an instructor rounded off sessions with brief matches. Participants had so much fun that they asked for more opportunities to play the sport, and eventually requested an entire class devoted to it.
Now UVAC Water Volleyball meets Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 to noon in the Competition Pool’s deep end. The group is comprised of 34 men and women (currently, six to ten show up to play). Members are mostly over 60 with a couple of powerhouse younger players. They divide themselves randomly into two teams each practice, and there is no serious competition.
Water volleyball has only three rules:
- Have fun
- Don’t cheat by reaching over the “net” (which is basically a rope of floaties)
- Try to listen when the referee blows the whistle?!
The current referee Alan Hernandez quickly got a read on the group and started to randomly blow the whistle to end a round, “leaving the players both guessing and scrambling to play harder, which is greatly amusing,” Bobbie said. “He has added much enjoyment to our game. But it makes the score irrelevant.”
The experience brought back memories of the traditional volleyball Bobbie played in her younger days. Even in the pool, everyone has their heads above the water and must rely on each other in the moment.
“We have become a well-oiled skill machine, with an actual rotation plan and everyone getting quite good at smacking multiple wet beach balls coming at them, and learning to place the balls where their friends can’t quite get to them—causing much laughter and entertainment,” she said.
At a time when there has been upheaval in the world, it has been therapeutic for people from different backgrounds to meet together to enjoy a shared activity.
The group has held potlucks twice yearly to get to know each other better, and they have supported one another through the pandemic and other hardships, such as the loss of their friend Andy Hiatt, who died last year. Bobbie, who serves as the team’s unofficial secretary, keeps people connected through a mailing list. Another member, Pat Cook (soon to be profiled in this blog), makes cards for the group to sign and send out.
“Our game is a great leveler: In the pool everyone is equally wet, flailing about and laughing at themselves and at the antics of each other,” Bobbie said. “It is a one-hour vacation from whatever awaits everyone outside UVAC’s doors. It is a disappearance of any kind of ‘status’ symbols that would somehow separate or define us as different from one another, since we are all wearing skintight clothing that no one would want to be seen in public in.”
Interested in joining this fun group?
The water volleyball players would love to have you join them. They’ll happily show you the ropes! GO here to make a reservation to play: https://uvacswim.org/aquatic-classes/
Stay tuned for profiles of water volleyball players.
Interview by Masters swimmer Liz Kelsey