Chinese rules add more players, fun to volleyball tourney

Updated: 2014-07-21 11:49

By Li Ang in New York (China Daily USA)

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Seward Park in Manhattan's Chinatown got more Chinese visitors than usual this weekend. People leaned over the fences to look into the park to watch the 27th New York Chinese Volleyball Mini Tournament.

This year, 86 teams from the US and Canada, including participants from New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto and Montreal, played in the tournament. One-third of the teams are New York-based, according to Danny Moy, the president of the New York Strangers Sports Organization (NYSSO).

The game is sponsored by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in New York, one of the oldest community organizations in Chinatown, and hosted by NYSSO. Eighteen volleyball courts were set up in two locations, at Seward Park and P.S. 2 Meyer London, an elementary school on Manhattan's lower east side. Nine courts were reserved for the Chinese variant of volleyball called nine-man, and the rest for six-player traditional volleyball.

Nine-man is an intense and dynamic variation of volleyball invented by the Chinese-American community, especially restaurant and laundry workers in Chinatowns in the late 1930s. With its own rules of playing, nine-man utilizes nine players per side and a slightly larger court.

One of the rules for nine-man calls for two thirds of the players on each team to be 100 percent Chinese and the rest must be of Asian descent.

"The New York Mini s considered the mini nationals because they practice for the Vegas national tournament and while other cities have their own minis but they are not as big as New York," said Moy. The rotating national tournament called the North American Chinese Invitational Volleyball Tournament happens each September over the Labor Day weekend. This year, the 70th annual tourney will be hosted by San Francisco in Las Vegas.

"It's going be fun and it's the first time it is being hosted in Vegas, away from a Chinatown environment," said Moy.

With 28 teams playing in the New York tournament at the same time, it was a feast for volleyball lovers and the audience.

Kristine Tan, who plays for the New York Freemasons as an outside hitter, just won her game against the Boston Knights and came to cheer for the New York Strangers.

"New York Mini is like a big practice to see how teams match up because all the teams can go to Vegas for the national title, so you want to know if you're good enough or not," she said.

"I don't live in Chinatown, I live in Jersey City, but I come to Chinatown to practice here and play volleyball here. The New York Mini brings everyone together, it builds community on a large scale," she added.

Robert Lee, a descendent of Toisanese, is also from a nine-man family. Lee and his grandfather, father, and brother played nine-man in the past. He thinks "Chinese-American are spreading out into the suburbs and this is one way to bring them back together, otherwise we'll lose our culture."

Rick Leung, 48, a founding member and an active player of the New York Strangers, said: "A lot of old players like me are still on the field, and they bring their kids to nine- man when they retire, and some of them even their grandchildren are playing."

Vivian Lee, an active player on New York Strangers, has been playing for six years. "There are a lot of Chinese girls on the team that don't speak Chinese so it's very interesting to see how they interact with team members who do speak Chinese. It gets them more immersed in Chinese culture," she said.

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 Chinese rules add more players, fun to volleyball tourney

The New York Strangers (in dark blue uniforms) play against Washington MVP SixPak at the 27th New York Chinese Volleyball Mini Tournament in New York on July 19. Li Ang / for China Daily

(China Daily USA 07/21/2014 page4)