Written by Daniel GonzalesPhotography by Steven Kavanagh
Welcome to Spiketown!
Meerscheidt Recreation Center has the capacity for 48 volleyball teams total, and they currently run 40 different teams, most of them co-ed, although they do offer men’s and women’s leagues. These leagues are also grouped by the team’s ability level determined by their win/loss ratio in a round robin competition early in the season. Gold is the most competitive division, followed by Silver, and then Bronze for the more recreational teams. While the competitive spirit is high—“We have a lot of fun out here, but it does get very competitive at times. Nobody likes to lose,” notes player Trisha Baird—joining a team is usually about much more than winning. Walking from court to court and hearing the communication between teammates proves that sport, at its purest moment, crosses generations and genders. It creates a cultural sophistication not so easily achieved in the papers we push or trucks we drive in our day-to-day lives. That glint in the eyes of children running around the playground can be seen in the adult competitors once that first ball is served.During the summertime, volleyball is very popular because in addition to indoor courts, Meerscheidt also has outdoor sand courts. “We are able to accommodate a lot more teams in the warmer months for volleyball just due to space limitations,” says Judy Barela, one of the main organizers of the volleyball leagues. Inside on the gym floor or outside on the sand, joining a team is all about building connections. “I didn’t know anybody, and a girl from my office asked if I wanted to be on the team two years ago,” remembers Naols Ling-Ketter, a transplant from Washington D.C. who came out to work at White Sands. “I’ve been playing ever since, and made some of my best friends out here.” The consensus around the courts is that playing volleyball is a great way to meet new people and answer that competitive drive that lives in many adults long after playing in the sandbox is no longer socially acceptable.
Taking It To the Hoop
If shooting hoops is more your style, Meerscheidt also hosts basketball leagues for both men and women. Register in November for the Roundball leagues, which run from January to March and include eight games and a tournament. The teams are separated into divisions of age and ability, similar to the volleyball league, but in this sport, they also assign humorous names to the different basketball divisions. To play in the George Burns division, participants must be 49 or older, while you only have to be 39 to be part of the Jack Benny hoopsters. And 29 is apparently the new 40 according to Meerscheidt; that’s how old you must be to play in the Over the Hill division. Open division is open to anyone over 18. “I’ve played in both the Open and Over the Hill divisions,” says Nate Tierney, “and I’ve found the Over the Hill to be more competitive.”
On any given night, Nate, a local business owner, could be running down the court next to an electrician, a lobbyist, or a Border Patrol agent, but when everyone is wearing their jerseys and shorts, all that matters is footwork, hustle, and the team spirit.
There are usually around 20 basketball teams competing across all leagues, but Meerscheidt has the capacity to hold nearly double that during the basketball season. So if you’re in need of that competitive outlet, there’s plenty of opportunity to gather up your friends and colleagues and form a new team.
“I grew up in Las Cruces, and Meerscheidt has always been a place to find a game. I play in both the basketball and volleyball leagues, and I have a blast with both,” says Josh Ybarvo. “I just love the competition.”
As adults, we have jobs, mortgages, and children. While the weight of responsibility far exceeds that of play, the community around us and the light-heartedness inside us also needs to be nurtured. Meerscheidt Recreation Center has long provided that outlet for Las Crucens of all ages who need to get up and use our minds and bodies in a constructive (and yes, competitive) manner. Besides volleyball, basketball, and pickleball, Meerscheidt offers flag football leagues and dance classes for the grown-ups.
The organizers and instructors are always helpful, and they say the Golden Rule is always in effect when you step through the rec center doors. For more information on getting involved, contact Meerscheidt Recreation Center at 575-541-2563 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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