Serving in the sand


By Abby Walton

If you travel outside of Indiana and tell people you’re a Hoosier, the one topic that usually comes up is basketball. However, there’s a new sports movement going on in the state that doesn’t involve a field or hoop, but rather a net, a ball and some sand.

CIZ Beach Vball Cover PhotoIt’s not a sport you’d normally associate with Indiana; however, beach volleyball is really starting to take off. Already, large clubs are forming in Midwestern cities like Cincinnati and Chicago and now, a group is teaming up with Midwest Sports Complex in Indianapolis to get Hoosiers in on the action.

The idea for beach volleyball at Midwest Sports started last year with several men who grew up in coastal states. Growing up, they played beach volleyball and continue to have a passion for the sport. Having now moved to Indiana with their families, Matt Middaugh, Butch Mockler and Bruce Asper, all wanted to continue playing the game they loved while also giving local young people the chance to experience the sport.

“There just wasn’t really anyone teaching beach volleyball,” Middaugh said.

With a 12-year-old daughter wanting to play, Middaugh created a team and started coaching 17 girls.

“We taught them the rules of the game, skill development and how to play,” Middaugh said.

As the team grew, Middaugh said that’s when Midwest Sports, Asper and Mocker came in and took it to a whole other level.

Starting out with some summer camps, Asper, director of the Midwest Beach Juniors Club, said the sport has morphed into several adult and youth leagues.

“I really just wanted to teach people how to play a game I love,” Asper said.

All three men are extremely appreciative of Midwest Sports for creating a top-notch facility.

CIZ Beach vball 6“The sand at Midwest is really better than at most beaches,” Middaugh said. So now, Indy youth, mainly young women from 12 to 18, are hitting the sand.

When you talk about beach volleyball to each of these men, you can hear in their voices how much they love sharing the game with others. They all talk about how it’s an activity you can do all your life because all you need are four people, a ball, a net and some sand.

“It’s as much a culture as it is a sport,” Asper said.

That culture includes teaching valuable life lessons like self-accountability and teamwork.

“Although you may be competitive on the court, I tell the girls when the game’s over, it’s over,” Middaugh said. “You never know if your opponent might be your teammate the next day.”

With the sport of beach volleyball becoming more popular because of events like the Summer Olympics, more schools are looking to add beach volleyball to their rosters. Although beach volleyball is growing more popular among women, Asper said he’s helped coach two young men from Carmel, who went on to play beach volleyball for schools outside of Indiana. Besides growing the female leagues, all three coaches said they’d like to see younger men get involved.CIZ Beach Vball

Asper’s main goal is to help make Indianapolis a hub of Midwest beach volleyball for young people. The Midwest Beach Juniors are already participating in tournaments with a club in Fort Wayne as well as other clubs across the Midwest. The beach volleyball season in Indiana usually runs from April until late July, so, as this year’s season starts to wind down, Asper is already looking forward to next spring.

“These new clubs typically grow pretty quickly, so I’d like to estimate we’ll have between 150 to 200 girls next season.” he said.

As more young people want to try this sport, the coaches said it’s best to first take some lessons to learn the rules and court etiquette. Then, after that, it’s all about determination and devotion.

“I’m just so lucky to have the opportunity to teach these kids,” Asper said.

If the three men and the many other beach volleyball devotees have their way, one day, it won’t seem odd at all in Indiana to have a basketball court and beach volleyball court nestled together in the cornfields.