Spiking in the great outdoors

The Capital District isn't known as a beach sport capital because well, the area would need more beaches in order to have more beach sports.

One organization, though, brings the beach spirit to the region.

The Capital District Grass Doubles club offers area residents the opportunity to play beach-style 2-on-2 volleyball throughout the summer.

The only thing it can't offer is the beach itself. In place of the beach, the CDGD holds its matches in area parks, including a series of weekend tournaments at Scotia's Collins Park.

Everyone is competitive, but [the tournaments are] also a big social event, said Tim Skinner of Guilderland, a 15-year member of CDGD.

The CDGD has been around for more than 20 years. Over that time, the club has grown from a few volleyball junkies to dozens of players ranging in age from their teens to their 40s. It's also become affiliated with the AVP Next program, which promotes the sport at the grassroots level.

"It's definitely grown over the years. There's more younger players at the tournaments these days," said Skinner.

Tournament fields are divided by ability level, not by age. So in any one of the four divisions (open/AA, A, BB and B), there can be matches between younger players and older players.

"I'm very competitive, so I have to play a lot to keep up with the players who are younger than me," said Skinner.

"In this group, everyone thinks of themselves as competitive players," said Jim Bishop of Rotterdam, who has been with the CDGD since it started in 1987. "I'm still trying to play competitively, even though I'm not as fast as I once was " not that I ever was that fast to begin with."

The level of competition ranges from basic to advanced. The most talented players compete in the open division, which can take on the appearance at times of the AVP Tour " the professional beach volleyball organization.

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