There is great volleyball to be played, and great people to be met, in every state of the U.S. One young and ambitious couple, Andrea and Scott Stonebraker from Pennsylvania, have made it their personal mission to play in every state in the country.
The sport of volleyball has a long list of attributes that give it that distinctive “x-factor” to differentiate it from other sports, but one of its greatest characteristics is that it is a sport that anyone and everyone can play. Volleyball players of all different backgrounds and levels bond over their common understanding of what it means to love the game.
The passion inherently shared among volleyball players across the globe makes the people and the sport of volleyball extremely accessible. One can easily pack up their volleyball gear, travel across the country to a new place with all new faces, and be completely integrated into the scene within 30 minutes of stepping onto the local courts.
“I hope that our travels and our story are a way for us to give back to the sport and the country that have given so much to us,” said Andrea, who is documenting their journey on the blog volleyballacrossamerica.net. She and Scott are open to recommendations for new tournaments and new places to play. Currently they are a little over halfway toward reaching their goal, having played in 26 states.
When this outgoing couple started dating in 2006, Scott was a volleyball addict and Andrea had never played before. She quickly realized that volleyball was not just a passion but a lifestyle for her new man. In an effort to better understand her then-boyfriend’s love for the game, she logged many hours on the sideline watching him play in day-long competitions.
Andrea enjoyed being a part of the tournaments and appreciated the camaraderie she saw on and off the court. It didn’t take her long to realize that the she wanted to learn to play. So she picked up a ball and Scott began giving her lessons. They competed in their first tournament together at the epic, small-town Pennsylvania tournament, the Pottstown Rumble, where Andrea officially caught the bug. Their relationship continued to grow and in 2009 the couple tied the knot. Not too long after the wedding their “volleyball across America” mission was born.
“The point of our story isn’t about how good of players we become. Let’s face it, in the whole scheme of things, we stink! We’ve seen the pros play, and we’re not them,” Andrea said. “It isn’t about being the best at anything. It’s about being the best you can be. It’s about setting a goal, a realistic goal, and going for it. It’s about having ‘your thing.’ It’s good to have a passion.”
The Volleyball Across America blog is complete with tournament summaries and state reviews of each stop. The couple reflects on the volleyball experience, but also the culture, people, and surroundings of each destination.
One of their favorite locations so far was Utah. The couple competed in the Utah Outdoor Volleyball Association’s grass doubles tournament, which won their personal recognition for “Best T-Shirt.” While in Utah, the couple also documented their adventures through Arches National Park and their newly found love for fry sauce (a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise), a staple of Western cuisine.
“We continue to play tournaments, winning some and losing some,” Andrea said. “Thanks to the patience and commitment from my husband, and his willingness to continually run drills with me, I am getting better.”
Andrea and Scott use the tournament organizers page on vblnation.com as a reference to discover new places to play. In the process they have built an incredible network of friends and fellow volleyball fanatics from coast to coast. As one might suspect, individuals that continually overlap with the Stonebrakers in their volleyball pursuits welcome them into their communities with open arms and great games.
Having hit their halfway mark, an accomplishment in itself, they will continue to travel, compete, and reflect on this memorable journey while they share their passion with the thousands of other like-minded volleyball players they encounter along the way.
Originally published in October 2013