Riding backseat through Portland, Oregon… on the way to a Seaside sports tournament; a brand new experience. I feel like dropping some thoughts on six days ago. T’was Manhattan Beach Six Man. MB Sixer is a beach volleyball tournament in the summer mixing the style of the indoor game with the elements of the outdoor game, full of sun, exercise, competition, drinking for some, and friendship for most. Epic is not an exaggeration. I’m going to run through some events that were cool for me and brief you on why.
Once the group emails get going, my brain gets rolling on Six Man. For such a laid back event, it really is something to be experienced and see the level of competition and the creativity. Many of the best players from the past, present, and future join up on a team and play. An event that was once so big (70,000 attendees estimated) in the early 2000s, was forced to realign itself on the weekdays, creating less noise, less drama, and less alcohol influenced shenegainans in California’s Manhattan Beach. The Six Man Headmaster Saikley returned it to its weekend status, just one year ago, and the build of fans began back, on better terms with the city.
To name-drop some of the studs who play (first 7-10 of each sex that come to mind and one accolade of theirs), you’ve got:
Donald Suxho - USA Olympic Setter
Chase Budinger - NBA Veteran
Luke Walton - NBA Champ/Head Coach
Sean Rosenthal - USA Beach Olympian
Chris McGee - World’s Greatest Announcer
Kevin Barnett - USA Olympic Opposite
Richard Jefferson - NBA Champ
Michael Brinkley - Volleyball’s Best Hair & Face
Alisha Glass - USA Olympic Setter
Falyn Fonoimoana - USA Indoor/AVP Beach
Natalie Hagglund - USA Libero
Nicole Davis - USA Libero
Justin Wong Orantes - USA Libero
Hailey Harward - Hits harder than TJ DeFalco
Megan Hodge - Multi-time NCAA Champ
Let me intermission with the best visual experience from the tournament. My guy Chris “Geeter” McGee, who you may know from announcing beach VB into popularity… or you may know from interviewing LA Lakers every day of the week. Either way, he’s the man, and he’s got a little daughter named Milly who’s like 11 years old, maybe 12. Geeter plays on one of the best teams in Sixer history, called Fletch, who wears LA Lakers jerseys for uniforms and usually bounces volleyballs over the net, down off the sand, and into the stratosphere of Manhattan Beach. Match point for Fletch on day one. Enter Milly McGee… surrounded by 6’3” to 6’9” grown men, she proceeds to stand-float serve a rocket on big-court, without taping, steps into middle-back (the most challenging position to play in 6man, IMHO) awaits a fluffy middle attack from the opponent, scoops it, takes a veteran step toward the net to cover the hitter, who feasts on the bump-set from Milly’s cash-money dig for a kill to end the match. Milly jumps in excitement and gets hoisted up in a circle of celebrating Fletch players… her dad following behind with a smile. MOMENTS LIKE THAT!
My favorite players are the ones from the team I play with. Not gonna name them all, but they are all important to our success. Sometimes a good comment (shoutout to Shane Stroyke) in volleyball can be as valuable as a good shoulder or a good platform. The cats I play with are Jaylen Reyes, Nino, Derran C, Ryan Redira, TJ DeFalco, Eric Zaun, Stafford Slick, Casey Patterson, Ed Ratledge, Joe Hillman, Brad, Cupper, Price Jarman, Corey, and my guy Kris Johnson. They make it fun to be on the court and off the court. Massive shoutout to James Kjar and Casey Adams. I challenge someone else to be a better sponsor and supporter of Six Man team.
When I step away from it, I see a bunch of mutual influence. Once in Friday pool play, once in winner’s bracket finals and twice in the Six Man Open final, we played this team called Lyon Stahl; literally full of young ballers. USA indoor guys, USA beach guys, NCAA guys, notable volleyball families, everything. Across the net against the Nephew Michael Saeta. Once upon a time I was giving him private lessons as a redshirt at UC Irvine and now he’s an NCAA All American, plays professionally in Europe, trains with team USA, and absolutely crushes serves and attacks; competition boy! And two of the four who really changed my approach to the game many years ago: Micah Ma’a and Larry “Tui” Tuileta… SO HUMBLE, SO TALENTED, SO SAVVY, & SO DARN FLUID (Literally yawning while scooping balls and transition flowing sets) playing a two-man game in defense and setting against Olympians and AVP Champs. If you don’t know, you better look them up and ask somebody!
The next day, I made the bold decision of popping the ball around in an amateur CBVA Open tournament. My volleyball nephew, this boy Luke “Bones” Turner makes the FINALS of the men’s open… he’s 16! Proving age doesn’t mean squat. Such cool moments I got to watch and experience this past weekend.
Six Man: a place where many who’ve helped influence me come to the surface and hang out and ball out. The second best part of Six Man ends up being the competition and potential to win. The best part are the relationships blossomed.
AVP Manhattan Beach is on Thursday-Sunday. Same spot. Check it out!