|By G. Michael Dobbs|
HOLYOKE Volleyball may be a sport that doesn't get as much television exposure as baseball, baseball or football here, but in other countries the sport born in Holyoke has television contracts and legions of excited fans.
Six international volleyball stars and the Japan Volleyball Association were this year's inductees at the Volleyball Hall of Fame and several of those being honored spoke about the popularity of the sport in their countries.
This year's honorees were beach volleyball pioneer Bernie Holzman of the United States; international volleyball official Endre Holvay from Hungary; 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Jackie Silva of Brazil; 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist from Poland Edward Skorek; 1968 and 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist Nina Smoleeva from the former USSR and the late 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist coach Shigeo Yamada from Japan.
They spoke about the game at a press conference conducted at the Yankee Pedlar restaurant several hours before their induction on Oct. 12.
Japanese television regularly broadcasts games as does Polish television.
Skorek told Reminder Publications that volleyball games in Poland draw huge enthusiastic crowds who paint their faces, wear the team colors and sing songs that support their teams.
"People are very interested to see volleyball," he said.
Skorek said there are both amateur and professional teams in Poland and that beach volleyball is popular there as well.
Silva said the appeal of beach volleyball was in the fact it was more than a sport, it was a lifestyle.
She said it was a fun game, but now the sport is "totally different."
"It's a power game," she added.
No one in this year's class of inductees has seen more changes in the sport than beach volleyball veteran Bernie Holzman, who began playing in 1935 at the age of 13. He stopped playing volleyball in 2004 at the age of 82 when his local YMCA in California scheduled volleyball play at 10 p.m.
Holzman said the current beach volleyball has built up a lot of popularity but at the expense of eliminating shorter players.
"I couldn't play today. I'm too short," Holzman said.
Holzman said the court on which he began playing was larger so there was more running in the game. He recalled that before rule and court changes a volley between teams could last 11 or 12 times before a point could be scored.
Holzman said philosophically, "It was different game then, but now they're drawing more people."
The Vollyeball Hal of Fame is open noon to 4;30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information call 536-0926 or log onto www.volleyballhall.org.