Five years ago a vision and insight awakened in Coach Mika's mind. Slowly, with trepidation, and humility, he slowly built the routine and practice of the game in Ocean Park, Venice Beach.
He attracted players from Pepperdine, Santa Monica College, Harvard and Stanford. This was all possible thanks to his determination to sustain old school techniques which were established in the 1980's and 1990's, back in the days when the whole world knew the center of international beach volley ball was in the south shores of California.
Gene Selznick, Randy Stoklos, Mark Berrar, Jeff Willian and Dain Blanton (Gold medalist 2000) are the players Mika played and practiced with on a regular basis. The tournament counts 50,000 internationally know players who hold medals and prizes. To remind you, this is 20 years in the past.
Today, in uttermost irony, instead of having the resources of the industry grow, and in light of the fact that American players pulled in three gold medals and there are thousands of players roaming the beaches, the million dollar question is begged to be asked… where is the money?
Prize amounts have been reduced to $5,000 per tournament, a fact which forces the players to reduce their efforts and excellence. They are forced to find secondary income sources in order to make a living.
In contrast to sports such as baseball, football and basketball in which the players are signed into expensive contract, there is no justice in the flimsy conditions beach volleyball players are forced to play under; their efforts to not match the monetary rewards.
America is a world renowned beach volleyball capital, with astounding Olympics achievements. There should be no excuse for this sports discrimination.
In light of this problem, coach Mika's vision was to establish a grassroots tournament which will win the players high prizes and to newly encourage the excellence of this sport. He set up new standards in the field in order to allow players to spend their entire time to practice and work only in beach volleyball and not have the need to work in other jobs in order to make a living.
The vision included bringing beach volleyball players from around the country to Ocean Park in Venice and to return the prestige of the game to its rightful place, Venice Beach.
Thanks to the generous sponsors, Perry's Venice and the wonderful gift cards of Venice Ale House, the first tournament took place last Saturday. There was a high level of excellence, a competitive spirit and the crowd was ecstatic.
In first place were: Paul Baxter and Pedro Brazao.
Second place: Halk Hatcher (Mika's own player) and Parker Calmbach.
Third place: Billy Allen and John Mayer.
Mika continues his work toward his vision and every Monday at 7 am he trains his players and wants to turn Venice into an international beach volleyball arena.
Anyone who would like to support this special venture is welcome to come to the next tournament.