Beginner’s Volleyball Course at Lakewood Ranch Offers Instruction and Fun | Eastern County


Florida residents usually have a good reason not to take up a new activity in the summer.

It is very hot outside.

On July 10, it was around 96 degrees at noon. The last thing I wanted to do in this temperature was strenuous exercise in the sand.

Yet that’s what a brave group of athletes does regularly at Waterside Park at Waterside Place at Lakewood Ranch.

They play beach volleyball.

They weren’t pros. They were hardly amateurs, in fact. They participated in the Lakewood Ranch Community Activities Beginner’s Volleyball Class, which is run by Sports and Social MVP Chris McComas.

I was curious what type of person would sign up for such a course in the heat.

Would people seriously go that far to make friends? Would older residents brave such heat to take up a new activity? Would younger kids who for some reason never learned the game in gym class choose such a time to learn?

It turns out the answer is yes.

The class started with the absolute basics – bumps and sets. McComas took a group of seven participants through each type of pass, noting that they want to use the flat part of their forearms for bumps. For sets, they want to form a spade pattern with their thumbs and index fingers and spread the rest of their fingers out, get under the ball and kick it skyward, not their teammate’s chest.

After some initial struggles, the players started to learn and eventually returned perfect passes to McComas – who, it should be noted, led the class after playing in MVP’s own Sunday beach volleyball league earlier in the morning. The guy was clearly tired, but still gave his best wisdom and charm to his participants. He’s a real pro.

After learning the basics, McComas tested his dexterity.

He instructed participants to move left to receive a pass, return to their starting position for a set, then move right to hit a third pass. Having to make three passes on the move proved more difficult, but for beginners they did well.

After this part of the practice, everyone took a water break – and the water break turned into a chat fest. They decided to get to know each other better instead of heading back into the heat for the last few minutes of practice. It was a smart decision for me.

Jackie Smith said she felt the beginner’s volleyball course was right for her, even though she had already played a few recreational games in college.

As they talked and got to know each other, I got to know them too. Jackie Smith of Lakewood Ranch was there with her son Brandon Smith. The couple were there to enjoy a Sunday morning, but more than that, they were there to try something different.

Jackie Smith said she tried her hand at the sport on a recreational team while attending the University of South Florida. It was not competitive, but purely for fun. She felt she needed a refresher course before jumping into a league.

“I’ve played so little in my life that I felt it was my best bet,” said Jackie Smith. “I will continue to work on it. We had a lot of fun and laughed a lot.”

Brandon Smith said he had never played the sport before, but McComas’ teaching methods put him at ease right away. He ended up learning a lot and having a great time, he said.

Tom Wozniak, 68, of Lakewood Ranch, took up some volleyball at Maryville High in Cheektowaga, New York, and played some recreational games at Briarcliffe Manor, New York, where he used to live. That was 35 years ago, he says.

“I’m rusty,” Wozniak said. “I needed to remember the moves and get back into shape. But I like everything about outdoor sports except skydiving or bungee jumping. I love meeting people. people and I’ve played in some of the different MVP leagues before, so I wanted to give this a try.”

Long Island native Maria Cappai had much the same experience as Wozniak and the Smiths. In other words, not much. But Cappai quickly picked up the sport — perhaps, she said, because of her penchant for pickleball, which involves similar coordination, just with a paddle and not your arms and hands.

“Oh, that was awesome,” Cappai said. “There are great people here and I even managed a few good serves.”

McComas kept the workout light and played an energetic medley of modern pop songs from a speaker to keep the energy high. For anyone considering the class, there’s no reason to hesitate. The class was welcoming to all skill levels. I should also note, as a bonus, that the courts at Waterside Park are magnificent.

There are four of them, which allows a lot of people to play at the same time, and the view of the courts with the backdrop of the park’s lake is pleasant to watch. I won’t claim to be a beach volleyball sand expert, but the sand on the courts was soft and didn’t get too hot, even in extreme sun. Seems good for diving after spikes and other volleyball maneuvers. This was my first visit to the park, but it won’t be my last.

This won’t be the last trip for Beginner Volleyball participants to the park, either. After the hour-long session, everyone exchanged contact details to form a “core” that sticks together and plays week after week. If you want a similar experience, you can register for the course at It’s free for Lakewood Ranch residents and $10 for non-residents.

The next beginner’s volleyball class won’t take place until August 14, but the Lakewood Ranch Community Activities website has many similar options, such as a kids’ volleyball class on July 17 and a volleyball for seniors on July 23.

There’s even a weekly event called Sunset Volleyball, which takes place at 6 p.m. every Wednesday at Waterside Park. This one is a chance to get out of the midday heat, which I highly recommend. Florida is beautiful, but that sun sure can be unforgiving.

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