More than 1,800 volleyball players from across the West converged on Spokane’s Dwight Merkel Sports Complex this weekend to compete in the Spike & Dig Tournament, which marked its 30th anniversary.
Volleyball players in teams of six from California, Montana and closer to home made up 265 teams in 16 divisions, what organizers called a nice rebound after cancellation of the 2020 installment due to the COVID-19 pandemic..
Players were divided by skill level and age into divisions, including an open division at the top, followed by an A division, three B divisions, five C divisions, two D divisions, a jungle division and three youth divisions.
Spike & Dig has helped shape Spokane’s volleyball community into what it is today, said founder Jerry Schmidt.
“The volleyball community has really grown in Spokane,” he said. “I like to think that Spike & Dig has been a big part of it.”
Schmidt, who is also a co-founder of Hoopfest, started Spike & Dig at Spokane Community College, where it stayed for 10 years. By 2002, the tournament moved to Dwight Merkel to accommodate more competitors.
Originally, Schmidt launched Spike & Dig as a fundraiser for charity. With only 80 teams competing in 1992, he didn’t expect much for the future of Spike & Dig.
“I had no vision,” he said. “I thought, if we could do this for two or three years, that would be great. Two turned into four, four turned into eight, then 16, and now 30 years.”
In the summer of 2019, Spike & Dig had a little over 300 teams register, the highest turnout they’ve seen. Although COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the tournament in 2020, it was able to return last summer.
“We have a leg up on everybody else because we actually had a tournament last year, where a lot of events were still canceled,” Schmidt said. “I think slowly, we’ll get back up to our high.”
Returning player Calvin Stark enjoyed his 28th time playing in the tournament this year. An Eastern Washington University alumnus, he’s played in every Spike & Dig tournament, with the exception of last year’s.
For Stark, the competition is less important than the experience itself. This year, his team “State of Denial” was knocked out of one of the B divisions in the quarterfinals, but that didn’t keep them from sticking around to watch the rest of the games.
“Every year is fun, because we don’t see our competitors all that often,” he said. “It’s more of an event than a tournament for us.”
Playing in his first year at Spike & Dig, A division competitor Andy Boyce, along with his team “Condor and Friends,” traveled from Missoula to compete in the tournament.
“Spokane is the farthest west I’ve been for a tournament,” he said.
Boyce enjoyed his time in Spokane, which included a visit to the Bowl and Pitcher feature at Riverside State Park and a visit to the city.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “I look forward to coming back next year.”
Putting on the tournament has turned into a family affair. This year, Jerry Schmidt’s son Brandon took over his position as CEO.
“It’s a whole family event,” said Brandon Schmidt.
Brandon Schmidt plans to keep the family legacy of paying it forward.
This year, he’s planning on continuing the tradition of giving Spike & Dig’s profits to local charities.
“The Spokane community is really receptive of the volleyball community,” he said. “We definitely want to give back as much as possible.”
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