Traditionally played outdoors and first played on Labor Day in 1935, the tournament has brought over 1,500 players to play in the exciting nine-man style. Hosting and representing the Washington region is the Chinese Youth Club, active since 1939.
Pennsylvania Avenue has seen all kinds of parades and protests, but the matches played between 9th and 14th provided new scenes such as tourists turned ball retrievers. Warming up, one player pounded the FBI Building with his practice ball.
Readers of The Washington Post’s "Weekend" section (August 25) got a nice primer on the rules, history and popularity of the game (Elizabeth Chang – “Points of pride”). Nine-man volleyball features a larger court and a lower net. The tournament site rotates between Boston, LA, San Francisco, Montreal, Toronto and Washington. A record 105 teams are participating in games that lead to a championship on Monday. The women teams play with six players.
Custom holds that two-thirds of the team must be 100% Chinese and the remaining team members must be of Asian descent. These requirements have sparked controversy, but it seems to me, if played otherwise, it would then be just like any other tournament.
Volleyball in Chinatowns began in the late 30s. Immigration laws and discrimination trapped Chinese-Americans in place. On Sundays, their only day off, they frequented their own YMCA. Seeking outdoor pleasures, they turned to volleyball.
We talked with a player on the San Francisco Rage, who was taking a breather by the sidewalk between the matches.
Asked about the disappointment of not being able to play in Chinatown, he said, “The tournament has grown so much, 54 men, 51 women this year.”
Watching the matches, the smashes, and the camaraderie, one realizes the players, who have played the tournament in warehouses and on parking lots, have a good time wherever they play. The colorful arch would have been nice, but with this tournament, it's the friendship that counts.