DIVERSIONS: Volleyball shagging brings more stress than bargained for

John Davidson, Staff Writer

Numerous teams crowded three courts and hundreds of people were packed into the arena in Leggett & Platt on a Friday night in October. Women were running and yelling, jumping and cheering. Smack, smack, smack, whistle.  Balls were flying through the air after being ferociously hit. I was slightly nervous, closer to antsy.

Missouri Southern hosted its annual volleyball tournament Oct. 11-12, and I was lucky enough to be a shagger for one of the games. Upon arriving at Leggett & Platt, I began my search for Rachel Burleson, assistant athletic director for administration and compliance, whom I had been told to meet with.

When you have never met someone, it can be hard to find her. This case was no different. After 10 minutes of searching for her myself, I found some help. All I could think was, “I am going to be late, I am going to get scolded. Could things get any worse?” But I finally found her. Crisis one averted.

I sat with Burleson for several minutes while she recorded stats for a different game. She eventually told me to meet with someone else, so another search was under way. Thankfully, this person was much easier to find. Event coordinator Cori Reid put each of the six shaggers on separate courts and told us the basics of the job.

“As long as you pay attention, this isn’t hard,” said Reid.

The pressure was officially on. Reid left the window open for a chance of this being difficult. The sweat started rolling down the cheeks.

I was assigned the game between the University of Central Missouri Jennies and the Southwest Oklahoma State University Bulldogs. The head official of the match was Brian Heaton. He gave a basic rundown of what he expected from me and the other shagger.

“When you give the ball to the server, always make sure to bounce it,” he ordered. “I don’t want any jammed wrists or fingers because you threw the ball at them.”

By this point, not only is there a chance of messing up, but there is a chance I am going to ruin these women’s volleyball careers. On top of that, there are some pretty women out there on the court; my margin for error was slim.

Finally the game was under way. I was on the same side of the court as the Jennies. Luckily, Central Missouri is one of the best teams in the country, so I didn’t have to roll the ball to the other side of the court very often. The Jennies scored first and the other shagger rolled one of the balls my way. It bounced off of the referee’s platform. We messed up at the very beginning; it was going to be a long night. I remember making a mental note to never recruit the other shagger to be on a bowling team with me.

We only got better from there, running after balls that had gone astray and always making sure to bounce the ball to the server … until I made my error.

The Bulldogs were serving during the second set and I had a temporary brain lapse and tossed the ball to the server − no bounce! I could just feel Heaton giving me the evil eye. I had done the one thing I was warned not to do. The player was OK so I got off the hook; crisis two averted.

It wound up being a short match, ending three sets to none. I left exactly an hour and 30 minutes after my arrival, escaping my night as a shagger with a fun story. But be warned: Shagging for a volleyball team can actually be a high-stress situation