Have you ever played wallyball? Not volleyball, wallyball. Andrew and I used to play when we lived in Utah and North Dakota--I think the game's more of a mid-western phenomenon like many other things I could mention--but not in the 10 years since we been back in Alaska have we hit the court.
Some friends of ours play regularly on Friday nights at the Alaska Club and though we usually have had other plans when they've invited us last Friday we were free and in the mood for action.
Wallyball is like volleyball but is played in a raquetball court with three to four players on a team (and here I'd like to mention that we looked much cooler playing that the meaty 80s girls in the picture, but I don't have a picture of us so this stolen picture will have to do). The rules are simple: get the ball over the net at all costs, stay alive and duck frequently.
As the name suggests the walls of the court are where the action is, in this game of brute strength (think beach volleyball on steroids) you can, and should, play the ball off the side walls as long as the ball hits only one wall in between each point of human contact. That means you can hit the ball off the wall but don't hit it at an angle so that it hits two walls before someone else can hit it, otherwise it's out. The back walls are always out and the ceiling, just as in volleyball, is only out if the ball doesn't come down on your team's side.
Physics, velocity, trajectories and angles are suddenly critical as they transform the quiet game of volleyball into monster-style wallyball as the ball whizzes from side to side, bouncing off walls and people as if you're participating in a life-sized pinball game. Serve the ball off the wall and get it to bounce down into the opposite court, spike it at the wall and down into an empty spot--it's all good and soon I found myself getting dizzy from the constant turning and craning as I followed the ball's movement, trying to keep from getting trapped in a corner where the angle of approach would be too small for me to get at the ball.
Was it fun? Like nothing else. The ball smashing from wall to wall, barely missing your head has an odd way of getting your blood pumping. Intimidating? You wouldn't believe. The sound of that ball exploding off a serve and hitting the wall at the speed of a Nolan Ryan pitch has a way making you cower in fear.
I used to be a fair player (at six feet tall you'd expect at least that much) but with four children and many years beyond my peak (it's been downhill since 1989) I was more concerned that night with not making those killers sorry they'd asked a lame-o like me to their game than actually winning. I wanted to be invited again, not forced to witness them argue over who got stuck with me on their team for the next game.
We played well over two hours and came out sweaty and quivering. My hand, evidently not getting enough of a workout from my daily eight-hour keyboard regimen, had cramped up into what can only be described as gnarled vulture claws. I'm still feeling the sad effects of my atrophied hands as I type but boy was it fun. I'm already hoping they call us in for the next game. In the mean time I'm practicing my serve.
Technorati tags: wallyball, volleyball, sports, Alaska