Volleyball --bigger than just a game

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Gustavo Castillo
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Music plays as groups of athletes marched into the gymnasium. Competitors from six nations gathered as their respective national anthems played to mark the beginning of the Headquarters Allied Air Command Inter-Nation Sports Programme Volleyball Championships March 25, 2014.

With every passing moment, the look of determination intensified on the faces of military members saluting to honor their country as they prepared for the upcoming tournament.

"When we walked in for the opening ceremony and they played our anthem, it felt almost like the Olympics," said Maria Ralston, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa women's volleyball team setter from Spangdahlem Air Base. "I had chills."

As the music ceased, an uproar of cheers and chanting filled the halls. The building was full of excitement and emotion as athletes battle it out on the court.

Language barriers did not exist in this world. United by one common goal, the competitors cheered on one another to do their best.

"At the end of the day it is about us making friends," said Miguel Figeroa, USAFE-AFAFRICA men's volleyball team outside hitter from Spangdahlem Air Base. "Making friends and good relations with other countries and just enjoy the time that we spend together."

Between games athletes sat down and ate together. Questions about culture and life in one another's military sparked curiosity and kept participants on the edge of their seat.

Some even exchanged team shirts as a sign of camaraderie, mutual respect and a keepsake for returning home.

The tournament concluded with a banquet held to celebrate the hard work displayed throughout the competition.

Besides trophies given to the first-place teams, team members received awards for MVP and outstanding sportsmanship.

"And its way bigger than me," said Shane Spice, USAFE-AFAFRICA men's volleyball team middle blocker. "It's about getting a chance to meet with the same people that you may see in a wartime environment or in a deployed location where it's just work. This gives us a chance to shake hands, talk, interact and get to know them personally. You may seem them again, and maybe this is the venue where you met someone."