By Alicja Pawelec
Coney Island has been a stop on the AVP Tour for only three years, yet its success has been bigger than expected in the New York City area.
“Basketball, football and baseball are mostly the dominant sports in New York.” said Jacek Ratajczak, a 21-year-old Woodside resident who plays Division I volleyball at California State Northridge. “Volleyball has had a hard time growing and becoming more popular because no one gives it a chance here.”
Can the AVP change that? The Association of Volleyball Professionals brought beach volleyball to Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 and, along with it, many new fans to the sport. Ratajczak has attended every Brooklyn Open since it has been introduced and says he noticed an increase in audience every year. That shows potential hope in the expansion of the sport, but not everyone agrees.
Matthew Ng, a volleyball player and a senior at Francis Lewis HS, attended the AVP event for the first time this year and was not particularly impressed with the turnout.
“Most people who I’ve seen there were people who play and know about volleyball already,” he said. “[The AVP] should do a better job advertising so new people take interest in volleyball.”
The professionals who participate in the event are looked up to by the amateur players who go to watch and learn from them — especially this year when three teams that played in Brooklyn will have the chance to represent the United States in the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing next month. The team of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, which took home first place in Coney Island, is the favorite to once again win the gold medal, as it did in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Elaine Youngs and Nicole Branagh will also be a dangerous contender in Beijing. On the men’s side, the winners of the Brooklyn Open, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers are seen as possibly the best team in the world with great chances in the Olympics.
“The beach volleyball players are a great motivation to young and aspiring players,” said Magda Makarewicz, a 17-year-old Jackson Heights resident who plays volleyball at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. “Their dedication and hard work encourages me, and other players, to improve our game.”
Young indoor players need the beach volleyball professionals to look up to since there is no indoor professional league in the United States. The AVP in Brooklyn brings New York-area players together to celebrate the sport they love. They all hope for more events like this one to experience volleyball at a much higher level and spread knowledge about this underappreciated sport.
Alicja Pawelec is a junior girls’ volleyball player at Francis Lewis HS and a resident of Glendale.