Volleyball only part of tourney’s draw
Steamboat Springs — In some ways, it’s better if you lose.
At least that’s what Chad Bond and Ryan Post tried to convince themselves of on a sunny Friday afternoon at the Howelsen Hill sand volleyball courts in Steamboat Springs.
Moments before they had lost a close match against Gary Patton and Dave Maitlen, friends, and at the same time, enemies.
Bond and Post were still looking for the upside.
“If we lose,” Bond offered, “we get to do what we actually like to come up here to do, which is drink beer and hang out with friends.”
Acknowledging that did seem to help. After all, it’s far more than volleyball that keeps more than 1,000 players trekking up to Steamboat Springs every July for the annual Steamboat Doubles Volleyball Tournament, in its 34th year this summer.
The weekend-spanning tournament, filled largely with Front Range players, kicked off Friday with the first of what will be at least 2,500 matches. The first divisions up were the dinosaur division, where partners must have a combined age of at least 80, and the youth divisions, which had brackets for U12, U14 and U16 teams.
That’s where the Thiessen brothers, of Chicago, spent their morning, battling against a handful of other boys teams in the grassy outfield of a Howelsen Hill softball field.
The older of the pair, Emmett, 14, has played in the Steamboat tournament before, dropping in while his family visits on vacation. He’s also racking up experience playing on school and club teams back home.
This year, younger brother Ty, 13, joined him for the Steamboat tourney.
Emmett served as the team’s blocker and got to serve first. Ty, who’s intent on following in his brother’s volleyball footsteps but hasn’t yet gotten any experience, tried his best to set for the team.
“He likes to be in control,” Ty said, considering his older brother. “I’m starting to play more volleyball. I like it. It’s more calm compared to basketball, where you’re running around non-stop.”
In the end, they were happy with their results, winning their U14 division and losing only to a U16 team when they were bumped up a division.
“I try to coach him,” Emmett said, emphasizing “try” and grinning. “We worked on fundamentals.”
It took Bond and Post a few minutes longer to accept their results, even after warming to the idea of hanging out under a canopy and laughing with friends.
“We’ll stew for a few minutes,” Post said, “then we’ll be alright and all be friends again.”
In that, players said, is what has kept the tournament alive for more than three decades and kept players like Post coming back for nearly its entire run.
Friday was just the start. Men’s and women’s teams will play Saturday, and they’ll switch to co-ed teams for Sunday. An open division, meanwhile, will do battle on the sand courts, with the championship scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday.
The pair has had plenty of success. It won the Dino division last year, and Post guessed he’s won the open division 10 times through the years.
He said most of his friends have graduated to the dinosaur division, so now, that’s his focus. It offers him a bit of everything he loves: competition, rivalry, fun and friends.
The loss Friday afternoon didn’t actually eliminate anyone in the dual-elimination format.
That slowly set in.
At about the same time, Post and Bond came to accept that, for all the volleyball played during the annual Steamboat tournament, it’s always been about more than volleyball.
“I love to just come up and hang out,” Post said. “I want to get sunburned, drink some beer, heckle and get heckled at.”
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