Four-on-four beach volleyball is one of those sports from ESPN’s distant past you’d expect to see on ESPN Classic alongside AWA Wrestling and various forms of billiards. And yet it has almost been scrubbed from history. Even though someone has made an effort to document the exploits of Team Paul Mitchell and Team Sony Autosound, it’s not even explicitly mentioned in the Wikipedia narrative taking the game from a couple of informal tournaments to current Olympic status.
Today, it’s all about two-player teams. Even the college “teams” that play in the Alt Games play the demanding two-on-two version. (Those of us who couldn’t hack two-on-two even when we were in decent shape in our 20s can testify.)
But the AVP is bringing back the four-on-four game along with its most famous player, Gabrielle Reece, who was probably the one female beach volleyball player mainstream America could name before the emergence of Misty May (now May-Treanor) and Kerri Walsh in the Olympics.
Reece says she sees it as a transition for college players to get out to the beach. Yet it could be better suited for older athletes who simply can’t cover that much ground any more but still have the skills to play an attractive game. Reece is 40, but she’s surely in better shape than those of us who celebrated that birthday behind a computer keyboard.
Should be an experiment worth watching.
In case you’ve forgotten May and Walsh’s rise to fame, here’s a blast from the not-too-distant past (and a fun interview):