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Church volleyball league growing, tournament next month

Blake Rowan spikes the ball.The church volleyball league has been keeping local athletes busy all summer long with good competition and fellowship. The league started play in early June and has been going strong despite having to dodge around adverse weather conditions.

There are two important tournaments coming up in the next couple of weeks that will help determine the winners for the summer league.

The youth will compete on Aug. 2 and 3 and the adults tip off on Aug 6-10.

The league is split into two divisions, leisure and competitive, with teams for youth and adults.

This season there are 11 competitive teams. First Baptist Church of Glen St. Mary  and Raiford Road each field three teams. First Baptist of Macclenny has two teams and there are others from Christian Fellowship Temple, Destiny’s People and Sanderson Christian Revival Center.

The leisure division is larger with teams from churches around the entire county.

“The adult leisure is so large we had to split it in two this year,” said Missy Whitehead, who organizes the league. “We estimate that we’ve got around 580 people playing in the different leagues.”

Whitehead has been playing since 1995 and has seen the league grow and the facilities improve. “When I was starting out we had poles and had to set up the nets before each game. Now we have the sand pits near the baseball fields and play twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.”

There is a natural difference between the leisure and competitive leagues. Whitehead describes the leisure leagues as “like playing with your family,” while the competitive league is just that – competitive, with spiking allowed. But both leagues stress the fellowship and ministry as much as the play.

The game opens and closes with a prayer and the players and coaches try to maintain their faith throughout the games. Sometimes there are speakers or a band will perform.

“We try to witness through our actions on and off the field,” said Lew Boyette, the coach of CFT. “If a player makes a mistake or hits a bad shot we try to be encouraging rather than sitting them down.”

This is Boyette’s first year with the league and it has been a learning experience.

“We’re 7-5, which is a lot better than I thought we’d be doing since this is our first year playing together.

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