By Eric Devlin, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> For most of the year, Memorial Park in Pottstown is a quiet place where people come to play baseball, take the family dog for a walk or go to get some fresh air. But for the past 25 years, over one weekend, it transforms into the go to place for volleyball action in the summer time. The annual Pottstown Rumble brings together thousands of fans and athletes and this year will be no exception. In fact, for many athletes, both professional and amateur, the size, popularity and goodwill generated during the annual tournament attracts them from all across the country.
That’s why this year, we’re gathering all of your best tweets, Instagrams and more live during the 2016 Pottstown Rumble Volleyball Tournament. We’ll also link to The Rumble’s Facebook page where locals can find live video of center court over the entire week. Sign up here for a reminder when we launch our live blog Wednesday.
“We came down here yesterday to look at the site and I was like ‘Oh my gosh,’ because it’s great when you see tournaments like this,” said Olympic Gold Medalist Misty May-Trainor in 2013. May-Trainor won a gold medal in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 summer Olympic games in beach volleyball with her teammate, Kerri Walsh Jennings. She’s hosted a clinic with her father 1964 Olympian Butch May at the start of the Rumble every year except one since 2013.
Others athletes agreed.
“I just wanted to come see what it was all about and it is such a great time. It is such a blast,” said Jeremy Verguson during his first visit to the tournament in 2014. He was qualified for the men’s open division but an injury kept him on the sidelines. Yet he still decided to make the drive up from Alexandria, Va., anyway just to see what all the fuss was about. “The crowd and the atmosphere makes this a place where you want to be.”
The 25th annual event is set to land in the borough June 23-26. More than 10,000 people are expected to flock to Memorial Park and surrounding fields to watch as some of the top volleyball athletes in the country converge on the four day competition.
“It’s the 25th annual event, our anniversary. It’s a big deal and we’re very proud of that,” said Seth Kaas, assistant tournament director. “We’ve experienced tremendous growth from early days of being a one day event now to a four day event that really reaches all ages.”
Even for casual fans of the sport, there’s plenty to see and do. Volleyball and beer enthusiasts are often one and the same. They’ll appreciate the fact that among the vendors will include beer from Pottstown’s Sly Fox Brewing Co., who will have taps flowing all weekend as the games go on. In addition, there will be plenty of other food and clothing vendors on site to grab a bite to eat or to do a little shopping.
The tournament kicks off with May-Treanor’s Dream in Gold clinic Thursday, June 23 at 9 a.m. Junior athletes age 12-18 looking to improve their volleyball skills will receive direct instruction from May-Treanor and her assistant coaches of the course of the five hour clinic. Full details are available on the clinic’s EventBrite.com page.
On Friday, volleyball action kicks off. The rumble is a pool play format, followed by single elimination playoff. All courts are traditional regulation size, and all games are side out scoring, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Up first will be the juniors, men’s masters and women’s golden grass doubles tournaments. Then on Saturday, a fireworks display will kick off the tournament with a bang as 2,000 athletes prepare to take the field. Women’s pro finals start Saturday afternoon at center court while the Men’s pro division wraps up Sunday evening. The men will compete for the $7,000 first place prize while the women will play for a $3,000 prize.
Kaas said the men’s prize is larger because there are more men’s teams competing compared to the number of women’s teams. Right now about 150 men’s teams are set to hit the court while only 30 women’s teams are currently scheduled. The hope, however, is to increase the number of women’s teams so that the winning prize can increase.
The tournament’s popularity continues to grow year after year and Kaas attributed that to the volunteers who run the event, good organization and positive word of mouth from the athletes who participate.
“They keep coming out with blog articles about the top volleyball destinations in the country and we’re always in the top 3, usually the top 2,” he said. “Volleyball enthusiasts make us a place they have to check off. Then they have a blast and keep coming back.”