Before joining the HLK sanctioned sand volleyball team, I made it very clear to Programmer/Designer and Team Captain Elise Hecht that volleyball was not really my sport. The last time I had ever tried to play volleyball was my junior year of high school in a class aptly named “Volleyball, Tennis & Badminton.” But once Elise explained that this volleyball was more “drink beer and trash talk” than “play volleyball,” I was committed.
At Trueman’s Place in Soulard, there’s a single beach-like battleground tucked behind a pretty standard bar and patio. I quickly realize that whoever decided to put 30 foot tall nets around the court was a genius volleyballs are quick to come flying towards those more intent on enjoying a beverage than playing the game. I arrived shortly before the 9PM game time and the team was warming up with a couple buckets of AnheuserBusch products. So far, Elise was right about the “drink beer” part of the HLK volleyball.
After a few brews, we make our way to the court to actually warm up. Our opponent for the night? A slightly less ragtag looking group with a few tall, muscular dudes in headbands. Things were looking grim. Then things started looking even more grim when the first serve came flying over the net — a scorching line drive headed straight for a spot in the sand completely void of HLK players.
I think it was eight nothing before we earned a point, I can’t really remember. It was a blur.
We lost the first game, somehow managing to scrounge up at least a double digit amount of points before finally succumbing to an impressive opposing squad. As was the postgame custom at Trueman’s, we came together for some “good game” highfives and made our way back to the buckets full of AnheuserBusch products to refuel. It was much needed.
Our plan for game two, as dictated by Senior Art Director Rob Hutti, was simple: “get the ball over the net.” Miraculously, it worked. We won the game by slim margin, forcing a third game in the best of three series. Winning a game was a big deal — it wasn’t something that happened too often. But there’s something to be said about teams that can stick together despite a lack of victories. Without losing, winning would never really feel that good. And to this team, winning really felt good. The only thing keeping me from really getting excited was the excessive amount of sand that was already stuck in my shorts and would be sure to fall out in the drivers seat of my car later.
Game three went much like game one, which was disappointing after what looked like a glimmer of hope only a few minutes earlier. A few more “good game” high fives later we were back surrounding the buckets of AnheuserBusch products. It wasn’t a bad place to be. Fellow intern Lauren and I chatted with some real life HLKers about everything from grocery stores to how interns should have to win at volleyball to earn a full time job. (Hopefully that’s not the case for me. I might be unemployed forever.)
The chance to talk to our newfound coworkers felt easier here than it did in the office. No longer were there desks or walls or fluorescent lights, but some ramshackle patio furniture and the shared experience of losing. I had an actual conversation with people that I passed in the kitchen. I laughed with people I only saw in the parking lot. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hypercompetitive, even when it comes to friendly volleyball games. But even with the loss, I still left Trueman’s Place satisfied.