|Jump for joy: At first glance, the game is no different from traditional volleyball, but the special factor is the players, who are middle-aged. — VNS Photos Doan Tung
Soft volleyball, a sport for those between 45 and 70 looking to stay up and at ‘em, is played the same as normal volleyball, except with gentler movements. Minh Trang reports.
On any given day, in the early mornings and late afternoons, a corner of Nghia Do Park in Cau Giay District is always crowded with people who passionately play volleyball.
At first glance, the game is no different from the traditional volleyball, however, the special factor is the players who are middle-aged.
When these men and women feel the pain while playing leather volleyball, find table-tennis or badminton expensive, feel dusty jogging and cycling in the streets, they move to play soft volleyball.
The soft volleyball club in Nghia Do Park was established more than 10 years ago, and now has an executive board to set out the rules as a professional club.
"Our club has got over 40 members with five people on the executive board. We asked permission of the park management board for the playground by the hour, from 5 to 9 in the morning and from 4 to 8 in the evening. The members who come in earlier play first. We all have to follow regulations," Nam Ho, 64, a member of the club's executive board said.
Soft volleyball is perfect for those between 45 and 70 because it does not require too much physical strength, power, speed, or difficult technical movements. The movements are quite similar but lighter compared to traditional volleyball. This gives players flexibility and versatility.
To Ngoc Thanh, 58, said, "I was earlier an office staffer, sitting in a room all day, so the body movements slowed down. I've begun to feel completely endurable and flexible since I began playing this game. It has helped me lose four kilos after only two months."
Soft volleyball is popular in many Asian countries. The biggest difference of this game compared with traditional volleyball is the ball. In Viet Nam, the ball is orange in colour, is made of rubber, and weighs between 200 to 250 grams. Instead of the 300 to 400g leather ball, this rubber ball is much lighter and more suitable for both elderly men and women.
"I've played this game for 10 years, mostly for fun and staying healthy. Hitting this ball does not hurt my arms, so women can also compete with the other older men," Binh, 60, a female member in the club, said.
|Lighter touch: Soft volleyball is perfect for those between 45 and 70 because it does not require too much physical strength, power, speed or difficult technical movements.
Volleyball is usually played in groups, so it is easy to enhance the spirit of solidarity in the game. Moreover, in soft volleyball, it also makes older people extend their social relationships.
"I used to play badminton earlier. But I found soft volleyball is more fun because it demonstrates solidarity. When playing badminton, players have to hit the shuttlecock immediately to the opponents, but in this game, each time passing the ball requires three members in the team to touch the ball. So all three can exercise, helps players improve both their physical strength and the spirit of teamwork," Thanh said.
Maintaining a sports activity for a long time always brings huge benefits for people. In particular, playing soft volleyball helps the elderly improve health and sustain endurance.
"Middle-aged people, except patients with heart disease or those with degenerative knee joints, should absolutely maintain playing as long as possible. About 30 to 60 minutes of playing is good enough for their health," Dr Nguyen Trung Nghia of AeroMedical Institute of Viet Nam said.
"Before the game, players should do a warm-up gently to help prevent injuries during play," he said.
Like a sport for older people to improve health, with the light method of play, soft volleyball is becoming very popular among people of all ages.
Khac Minh, 19, said, "My family has three members, which include my aunt, her son, and I, playing this sport. In our club, in addition to the team of elders, there is a seven-member team of youngsters as well. I have played soft volleyball for two years and have not been interested in any other kinds of sport yet. I take part in this game to keep healthy, and also learn from the experiences of the elders."
Besides improving health, the most important advantage in playing soft volleyball is that it brings joy to people. Players and viewers are excited with the boisterous laughter when a member accidentally misses the ball, or cheer when the team scores another point. No one bothers about their worries, everyone just focusses on the ball.
In recent years, the soft volleyball movement has been developing in the capital and spreading to neighbourhoods.
"We often organise friendly competitions among clubs inside and outside Ha Noi to gain experience. There are a few spaces to practise in Ha Noi unlike other provinces, and they are in good condition, so one can play soft volleyball there," Ho said.
"All the members are hoping that soft volleyball, a cheap and healthy sport, will become an official one and be familiar to people, especially the elderly to help them improve both their spirit and health," Ho said. — VNS