Volleyball in Palmy

By LINDA McCARTHY

If you know me well, you know I love to play volleyball more than almost everything else in the world.

From the moment I witnessed the sport live and in competitive form (i.e. not park ball), I couldn’t get enough! It was the fall of 1986, and I had landed a student job with Grizzly Athletics, recording statistics at Lady Griz Volleyball games. That ‘86 team won 21 matches under the guidance of Dick Scott, who coached at Montana for 20 years after working with some of America’s best male athletes in Los Angeles in their formative years in the 1970s. Watching Montana’s Cindy Pitzinger, Allison Yarnell and the rest of that team was a real eye opener for me; from that point on I have played volleyball every chance I get.

Here in New Zealand, I have been fortunate to connect with a group of passionate volleyball players, and I have had more fun playing with these men and women than anything else here in town. Upon arrival, I made contact with Palmerston North Volleyball and asked about potential opportunities to play. Andrew Curtis, who runs the organization and events, invited me to the following Monday’s game night and put me on a team right (straight) away.

Palmerston North Volleyball offers competitive play for Intermediate students, High School students, and the Social League for everyone else. Games are held at the B&M Center inside the Manawatu Arena , which can accommodate 11 volleyball courts at the same time.

Speaking of which, Palmerston North has a significant amount of public venue spaces to host events and conferences, including the Convention Center, FMG Stadium & Speedway, Awapuni Racing Centre, Regent Theatre, Te Manawa Museum, and Manawatu Arena. Missoula and its economy would greatly benefit from having additional event space that could accommodate the types of event we cannot currently draw…such as the MHSA All-Class Volleyball or Wrestling Championships.

In addition to playing volleyball on Mondays, I was invited to practice with a group of players every Wednesday at Freyberg High School, where Gerald, the PE teacher there, opens the gym and coaches all who show up through volleyball drills and games. It’s just a few blocks from our house, so I get to bike or walk there each week, and we have the best time playing volleyball.

I have met interesting and diverse people there, and everyone loves to play the game as much as I do. The other thing I love about it is that there are more men playing volleyball than women, which is just the opposite of what we have in Missoula. There are very few, if any, opportunities for young boys and men to learn to play volleyball throughout the State of Montana.

I will cherish my championship T-shirt.

I will cherish my championship T-shirt.

Palmerston North Volleyball has everyone playing on the same night in the same facility. They provide affordable playing opportunities for all ages from middle school through adults of all ages. They require teams to referee matches as volunteers and provide training for everyone free of charge. They promote and participate in regional tournaments, including the New Zealand Masters Games, held in Whanganui each year. Interestingly, we were in Whanganui when the Games were going on in early February, so I ran from our campsite to the gym to watch some games, but unfortunately, I got there just as the title game was wrapping up.

Thanks to the leadership and support of Sport Manawatu, Palmerston North hosted the 2013 New Zealand Secondary School Volleyball Championships in March that drew more than 140 teams with 1,800 competitors for five days. There is good leadership, organization and promotion for the game of volleyball in Palmerston North. Missoula could do better in this area.

My team here in Palmerston North is the Lions and includes Glenda Houston, who works for the national government; Ross (PhD student) and Blair (printer) Hebden, brothers who grew up in Palmy and went to Freyberg High; Ben Odering, a graphic designer who came from Dunedin; and Jon Lauridsen, who runs a trucking company here in town. We recently won the Division 2 tournament and got these great red, white and blue shirts, which I will cherish for a long time.  Others I have really had fun playing with are Bruce, Claire, Crispin, Dave, David, Gerald, Jake, James, Mike, Paul, Sam, Sandy, Scottie, Simon, Tammy, and Ted. They are teachers, nurses, engineers, laborers, social service workers, students and other who come out to play volleyball each week, all for fun! I love it!

Palmerston North Volleyball and the folks I have met through that organization will be what I miss the most when we leave New Zealand and return home to Montana. They have been so warm and welcoming, fun and funny, competitive and supportive, and they’ve helped me become a better volleyball player. I am grateful.

(CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE AND USE ARROWS TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL IMAGES)

Volleyball Practice
Volleyball Practice
L-R: James, David, Clair, Crispin, Ben & Sandy
L-R: James, David, C...
Gerald, teacher and coach
Gerald, teacher and ...
volleyball - DSCF1314.jpg
volleyball - DSCF131...
Championship Shirt Backside
Championship Shirt B...
Ben, the setter from Dunedin
Ben, the setter from...
Practice at Freyberg High
Practice at Freyberg...
Everyone Loves Volleyball
Everyone Loves Volle...
Ball is in the Air
Ball is in the Air
Celebrating with Montana Winery
Celebrating with Mon...
Who Knew?
Who Knew?

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Linda McCarthy has served as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association since 1999. Prior to that, she served as a Sports Information Director for Grizzly Athletics for 10 years. She is a two-time graduate of The University of Montana, where her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a professor in the Applied Computing and Electronics Program at Missoula College. Her daughter, Maddy Gallagher, is an outgoing and kind 11-year-old who has spent all of her school years at Lewis & Clark Elementary. They can be reached via email at: tomlinda@centric.net.