Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Volleyball icon inspired by past with tournament that comes to Siesta Key

Karch Kiraly, who started the Corona Light Wide Open after retirement, employs more traditional volleyball rules during the tournament to keep the sport “true to its roots.”

Courtesy of Corona Light Wide Open Tour

Karch Kiraly, who started the Corona Light Wide Open after retirement, employs more traditional volleyball rules during the tournament to keep the sport “true to its roots.”

Volleyball legend Karch Kiraly fondly recalls partnering with his father, Laszlo, a one-time member of the Hungarian national team, on a picture-postcard strand in Corona del Mar, Calif., for his first beach tournament.

"I loved every minute of it," Kiraly said.

That despite the brevity of his day.

The father-and-son team lost two straight hard-fought matches, or, as the somewhat dubious saying among the sport's enthusiasts go, "One, two, barbecue."

But then, the younger Kiraly was all of 11 years old.

"It was amazing to look across the net and see grown men and the panic in their eyes that they were close to losing to a kid," said Kiraly (pronounced Kuh-RYE), now 49, who didn't lose often as he went on to win three Olympic gold medals during his famed career (indoor volleyball in 1984 and '88, then beach at the 1996 Games). "It was a very empowering moment for me."

For Kiraly, it couldn't get better than to be on a beach with the endless blue water serving as a breathtaking backdrop. It couldn't get better than the challenge posed by two-on-two play against rivals of similar ability, if not age.

"That," he said of his debut some 38 years ago, "was when my passion was ignited."

And it's still burning.

Kiraly, who stopped competing in 2007, helped create and launch the Corona Light Wide Open, a 2-year-old tournament played at beaches in nine cities, including for the first time Siesta Key, near Sarasota, this weekend. Hundreds of teams are expected to compete in 17 divisions, with the winners in the two-player divisions earning a berth in the U.S. Open of Beach Volleyball at the sport's mecca, Manhattan Beach, Calif., in September.

Over the years, Kiraly, the chief volleyball officer for the fledgling nationwide event as well as a coach with the U.S. women's indoor team, saw an increasing number of beach volleyball tournaments held on parking lots covered with mounds of trucked-in sand and surrounded by steel and concrete structures.

That might allow an event to be held anywhere, but to Kiraly it struck a blow to the "soul" of his sport.

"(I want) to help the sport stay true to its roots," he said. "When three-quarters of the tournaments were being held in parking lots and other artificial locations, that was a growing frustration for me as someone who grew up playing beach volleyball and idolizing the guys who came before me and knowing the history of the sport."

But Kiraly wanted to do more than return events to a proper setting. Unlike the old days, tournaments have focused almost exclusively of late on the best male and female players, phasing out the opportunity for the masses to compete as he did as a teen.

That irritated him like, well, so much sand in his suit.

"I played with my dad until I was 15," he said. "We were novice players, but we slowly worked our way up. I'll never forget the day I got my B ranking and my A ranking … and (having) that sense of, 'I got better. I accomplished something I've never done before.' "

He hopes this tournament can do that for others of any age and ability. And in another move to recognize beach volleyball's roots, the Corona Light Wide Open follows some traditional rules, including:

• The court is back to 30 by 30 feet on each side of the net, not 26 feet, 3 inches by 26 feet, 3 inches, which put a premium on Dwight Howard-sized blockers;

• Instead of using rally scoring (every serve means a point for one of the teams), as has been the norm for nearly a decade, this tournament returns to sideout scoring (a team can score only when it serves).

"I actually prefer the old-school (game) with the bigger court and the sideout scoring," said Alex Sevillano, 29, a former standout player at Clearwater High and Florida State who finished third last month in the women's open division at the Corona Light event in Fort Lauderdale. "I almost forgot what (sideout scoring) was like. In our first match, we were down 14-8, and we came back and won 16-14. That never happens in rally."

Though she's busy as a prosecutor in the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, Sevillano rediscovered her passion for the sport and plans to compete this weekend.

"I like what Karch is doing," Sevillano said. "You can't ask for more than to have a good beach day with the water, local people watching and playing the game like it was meant to be played."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

fast facts

Corona Light Wide Open

beach volleyball

When/where: Saturday-Sunday, Siesta Key Beach, Siesta Key, near Sarasota

Format: 350-450 entrants in 17 divisions

Information: coronalightwideopen.com

Volleyball icon inspired by past with tournament that comes to Siesta Key 06/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.