LI / Queens Outdoors
Having a Ball at the Beach
by Tom Rock
RUSSELL Schwint stands up and his face is covered in sand. He shakes
his head and sand falls out of the whiskers that surround his smile.
He brushes himself off with his hands and makes a sound with his
lips as if he is blowing into a tuba to get the grains out of his
Pbbbtthhhh! No, Schwint is not some 90-pound weakling who just had
sand kicked in his face by a bully. He's a beach volleyball player
with the Long Island Volleyball Association, one of nearly 6,000
members of the organization that provides advanced players and beginners
with a chance to spend evenings at the beach, get a good workout,
and, if they're lucky, get a mouthful of sand. After all, what's
the point of playing volleyball on the soft sand if you're not going
to dive after the ball every chance you get?
"It's a lot of fun and it's an inexpensive workout,
said Schwint, who plays on a coed beginner team of six called Dunesday.
"Over the river, through the woods, I'd move heaven and earth
to play here.
Fortunately, the effort isn't quite so dramatic. Schwint, who lives
in Holbrook, need only drive to Jones Beach, one of two locations
on Long Island where Association teams play (action also takes place
at Cedar Beach in Babylon). The courts at Jones Beach are situated
at Parking Field 4, right behind the miniature golf course where
the old roller rink used to stand. There are six courts and, because
there are lights, games begin at 6:45, 7:40, 8:35 and 9:30 every
Monday through Thursday night. Cedar Beach games are held on 20
courts at 6:30 on Monday nights.
With the games held at night, more players are able to compete.
There are hundreds who sit behind desks in offices in Manhattan
all day long, then instead of commuting home they travel to the
beach to play volleyball for an hour or two, enjoying the cool breezes
and party atmosphere that surround the game.
It's the ultimate in stress relief.
Nicole Maurice of Williston Park, for example, works as a toxicologist
for the medical examiner's office in Westchester County but comes
to Jones Beach once a week to play volleyball. She has been participating
in the sport of indoor volleyball for almost 20 years and is in
her second year playing the beach version.
"You have to get used to running in the sand, and the wind
is a factor, she said, explaining the differences between
indoor and beach volleyball. "The sand makes it harder to move,
but it's easier to dive.
Four years ago, there was no place for beginning beach volleyball
players to play on Long Island. There were games being played at
Long Beach and other areas, but those were for seasoned players
and it was almost impossible for a novice to break into the sport.
Joe Strining was one of those advanced players diving and spiking
at Long Beach, but then he decided to pursue his dream of starting
a beach volleyball league. In 1998, the Long Island Volleyball Association
began with 28 teams at Cedar Beach. The following year the courts
at Jones Beach were opened and membership jumped to 120 teams. Last
year there were 400 teams and this year the league is filled to
the scheduling brim with nearly 600 teams.
The 600 teams are divided into three levels -- recreational, intermediate
and advanced -- and five divisions -- coed teams of six, four and
two players each and men's teams of four and two. Players range
from age 15 to over 50, and most of the players are at the recreational
"There were always advanced leagues for strong volleyball
players, Strining said, "but not everybody had a chance
to get better. Now it doesn't matter if you're the greatest volleyball
player or not. We provide them with organization and fun, and when
you combine the two it makes everybody, including myself, very happy.
AND it's a lot of fun even for those who don't play. On warm summer
nights the boardwalk at Jones Beach is packed with people, many
of whom take time out to sit and watch a few games of volleyball.
At Cedar Beach there is a disc jockey playing music and a line of
grills waiting for the games to end and the cooking to begin. At
Jones Beach the music is just as loud, and all along the perimeter
of the courts are people dancing and chatting while drinking from
"It's like a sandbox for adults, Strining said. "It's
meant to be a nice, fun place to come.
Strining's professional background is in marketing, so when he
opened the league and started looking for players, he had to think
hard. He sent letters to human resource departments of hundreds
of companies on Long Island and in the city and received a tremendous
response (about three-quarters of the teams in the association are
made up of players who work together). He went to various beaches
and put fliers on windshields, an activity that got him thrown out
of a few places.
"I wanted to try to find the market, but in the process realized
I was creating the market, Strining said. "Our next goal
is to expand to either an indoor facility or find another area to
play on Long Island.
Players can join the league as a team for a price of $425 a team
with an extra $15 per player. That works out to about $57.50 a player
for eight weeks of action and a week of playoffs, after-session
parties, T-shirts and an identification card that gets discounts
at various local stores and pubs.
Individuals can join for $90 and be placed on a team, which is
what happened to Janna Jachniewicz of Hicksville. Her mother saw
an ad in a newspaper and told her about it, so Jachniewicz made
a phone call and showed up.
"Luckily they put me on a good team and I've stayed with them,
she said, adding that she plays for three teams in the LIVA along
with weekend tournaments around the country. "I even talked
my sister Tara into joining this year. She's never played before,
but I told her it's a fun place to come and relax and meet a lot
of nice people. And get an occasional mouthful of sand.
For information on playing in the Long Island Volleyball Association,
call 631-422-5555 or visit http://www.longislandvolleyball.com/.