l love watching volleyball. But I have to admit, I know very little about the game except for the basics, such as: six players take the court for each team and each team attempts to score a point by grounding the ball on the other team; in high school play, the first team to score 25 points wins a set, the team that wins the best-of-three sets wins the match; and finally, when the ball is in play, no player is allowed two consecutive touches and the team is only allowed three touches before the ball is volleyed over a central net to the opposing team. Need more information than this and I yield to actual players and coaches.
As a spectator, I enjoy most how the ball is played both high in the air and low to the court. Players dive to keep the ball from grounding and keep the ball in play. Teammates volley the ball in the air to each other to set up a player who will jump high to spike the ball -- a spike is a hard volley meant to overpower an opponent. The miss of the dive or the rejected spike by the opposing team’s player adds to the thrill of every game.
Despite its ups and downs and rules of play, volleyball is simply an intense game of keeping the ball in the air.
Today, volleyball is one of the most popular girls’ sports. Girl’s high school volleyball is a fall sport and is ranked third in popularity behind basketball and track and field. And like these two sports, volleyball has humble beginnings. The game was originally called “mintonette” and was invented in 1895 by YMCA instructor William G. Morgan in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Morgan was a friend of James Naismith who had invented basketball four years earlier. For the first demonstration of “mintonette,” a net was borrowed from a nearby tennis court. The name quickly changed to volleyball as observers noted the “volleying” of the ball between teams during play.
Playing a sport comes with its ups and downs -- its wins and losses. And so it is with life. Played well, life can be filled with the best. But sometimes, even when played well, we can be knocked down. In October 2010, Morgan Ashbreck learned about the real ups and downs of playing high school volleyball. During a hard fought playoff game, she came down hard and hit her head. The injury brought on convulsions as the teams and spectators stood by watching helplessly. Ashbreck was a star player, respected by her teammates and opponents. She was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. The severe concussion she experienced sidelined her and ended the senior’s volleyball career.
As the ambulance pulled away, her coach approached the other team’s coach with the intention of forfeiting the game. The opposing coach refused to accept the forfeit. Instead, everyone in the gym – players, coaches, fans -- came onto the court where only a short time before a spirited championship game was being played and they bowed their heads and prayed for Ashbreck. The coaches agreed to play again two days later.
Ashbreck sent a letter to be read before the rescheduled game was played. She wrote: “Tuesday night was a changing point in my life, not because it was the volleyball playoffs, but because it was a night when God’s grace was present, and His love filled one small East Texas gym.”
What was one of the biggest downs in her young life became a time where her spirit was lifted high. Despite her injury, she felt God's presence through the love of many in her hometown and sporting community. Ashbreck went on to graduate in May of 2011 and attended college in the fall of that year. God is indeed good.
King David, too, understood ups and downs. In Psalm 30, he gives God all the credit for lifting him up when he was down. He writes that when he called on Him, God “put me together (healed me).” David writes that despite being down, God will raise you up to “soar on wings of eagles.” Turn your eyes to the Lord during both the ups and downs of life. You are not alone. He will not forsake you. Play on!
Edminson is the Editor of Baptist Children's Homes (BCH) of North Carolina Charity & Children publication & also serves as BCH Special Assistant in General Administration. This column is intended to invoke thought, to inspire and to offer encouragement to families and athletes across Davidson County.