Valleyball tournament provides family entertainment
HUNTINGTON -- As the summer heats up, so do the courts at Ronnie Paul Angelo Memorial Park, which is located off of Spring Valley Drive.
And that means just one thing: it's nearing time for the annual Valleyball 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
The Valleyball 3-on-3 basketball tournament has been a staple in the Tri-State summer for nearly three decades and tournament organizers are eager to keep the tradition going strong in 2014.
"This tournament was around when I was a kid playing on the court," said tournament co-director J.B. Blankenship. "It's something we looked forward to every single summer and we want the younger generation to continue to mark it on their calendars in the future."
Part of the way that Blankenship and fellow co-director Joda Burgess have been able to continue the tournament's legacy is by balancing great competition with a family atmosphere.
There are two divisions: the 'A' division (high school level and above) and 'B' division (high school level or below). Each division crowns its champion on Sunday afternoon, which is July 20 this year.
While basketball is a competition and emotions can get high, the Valleyball staff tries to promote a family-friendly atmosphere by keeping play clean and encouraging sportsmanship.
Court moderators, who are volunteers, are used to make calls whenever there is a dispute about a foul and players are penalized whenever they used language that would be inappropriate for children.
"To keep this thing growing, we have to be able to teach kids the value of the tournament from a young age," Burgess said. "A lot of our players want to bring their wives and kids out here, which helps build a future for the tournament. They wouldn't be able to bring their families if the players were cussing at each other or playing dirty. It's part of the reason we have a large crowd for the tournament each year."
Currently, the Valleyball tournament is engaging in an intriguing time of its existence. There is a group of players who -- regardless of division -- have been around the tournament for decades, such as Jamie Riggs (Team Riggs), Jason Hensley (Team Hinske) and others who have constantly been near the top competing for the titles.
Now, there is a younger group who is trying to unseat the veterans and take the reigns as the next Valleyball legends.
It's a process that is fun to watch play out on the court, according to the co-directors.
"When you get these guys out here who have won multiple titles, everyone wants a shot at them," Blankenship said. "Now, these younger guys who never saw some of these older guys during their high school days all think they can take them down. The young guys want to win, but these older guys are still intent on showing that this is still their court. It's intense, man."
In the end, that's what the Valleyball Tournament is about -- the love of basketball and the pride of being a champion. Winners earn the respect of the other teams and get a limited edition Valleyball champions T-shirt.
Those two items cannot be bought. They have to be earned.
And that has been enough to keep the Valleyball participants coming back for nearly three decades.
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