Puerto Rico a volleyball hotbed
Story Originally Posted at knoxnews.comÃ‚
U.S. commonwealth becoming a rich port for talent
Javier Muniz and Ramon Matias looked pretty much at home Saturday morning on the beach volleyball courts behind the Alcoa Highway CourtSouth.
Using some good defensive and offensive strategy, they won both their 16 and under AAU Junior Olympic matches in two games each.
But the two who hail from the western Puerto Rico town of Aguada are actually far from home.
The Caribbean island, which is a self-governing commonwealth of the United States, is quickly becoming a beach volleyball hotbed, according to their coach, Hiram Muniz.
"It is getting very popular," he said. "It is the third most important sport after baseball and basketball."
As a result, plenty of commitment is required.
"Every Monday and Thursday they do weight training and on Tuesdays and Thursdays they have practice," said Muniz, the father of Javier. "And then there is competition on the weekend or practice."
"It is almost the whole week they are busy," he continued, "That is why you see them so thin."
No matter where they are, they are usually not too far from an awards stand. In the previous two AAU Junior Olympics, they were members of bronze medal-winning teams
The beach volleyball competition this year definitely has an international flavor, as two of their competitors came from about the same distance north Canada.
Robert Hudson and Chris Wolfe from Ontario lost to the Puerto Ricans, 25-12 and 25-21, but they did defeat David Nance and Adam Perry of Chapel Hill, N.C., 25-13, 25-13.
Just as in Puerto Rico, beach volleyball is big in Canada, they said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is huge, said Hudson. "There are more kids playing beach than indoor."
Although most Americans might associate beach volleyball with the Florida or California oceanfront, Wolfe said Lake Ontario is perfect for it.
"There are beaches all around it," he said.
But Hudson said the U.S. likely still has an edge in popularity. "It is not bigger (in Canada) but we seem to have better teams," he said.
One advantage the United States has, Hudson added, is that American colleges that field teams give scholarships, but Canadian universities do not. So, a number of Canadians play college volleyball in the U.S.
Tim Nance, the coach of the North Carolinian boys team, said that one problem here is that a lot of school districts do not offer boys volleyball as a sport. It is big in California, Florida and such major cities as Chicago and New York, he said, but not in places like North Carolina or Tennessee.
"Everybody is playing football, basketball and baseball, so where do they fit in volleyball?" he asked.
He said his team normally has to look far for competition.
But this week, they have found plenty off Alcoa Highway.
"Events like this are good because it gives the boys a chance to play other boys," he said.