The Majestics, one of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s chair volleyball teams, recently played in and won the championship at the Senior Olympics of the Quechan Tribe, which took place May 19-20 in Yuma.
The Salt River team is composed of six elders, who traveled down to Quechan to compete against six other competitive chair volleyball teams. For their efforts, the Majestics won a three-foot-tall championship trophy, along with medals for each participant.
“It’s been great. I have been playing with the team for over two years now, and we always place in every tournament,” said Majestics team member Wanda White-Eyes. “I am very proud that we won the championship trophy and get to bring it back to the Community.”
The team played about five games during the Quechan tournament to come out as the winner. The final score of the championship game was 11-2. “During the championship game, we served all eleven points,” said Josie Duarte. “A lot of the games we can play up to 15 points, and have even played up to 18 points.”
“Our main competitors were a team from Gila River District 6,” said Christine Osif. “At one time or another, a (past) game against District Six lasted one hour and forty-five minutes.” Ethelene Ray added that they loved to play District 6, but during this tournament that was the first team that was defeated.
The Majestics have collected 12 trophies that range from third-place to runners-up and four championship trophies. All are kept with Ray, and she is looking into putting them up somewhere in the Community.
Senior chair volleyball began with a team hosted by the Salt River Senior Center. But when the center stopped hosting the team, Ray and the other team members continued practicing on their own. Their love of the game led them to improve and eventually start placing in the top in outside tournaments.
“We are independent and travel together as a team,” Ray said. They practice faithfully in the Community gyms, but because school is out, the team now does not have a place to practice indoors. Their season will resume after school starts again in August.
White-Eyes recalled playing volleyball back in high school. “I played volleyball, but not this kind (chair volleyball); it can get very difficult. I have to put a seat belt on every now and then so I won’t stand up,” she said, laughing.
The youngest team member, Rubin Washington, just started playing over a year ago. He said chair volleyball is a very fun sport.
“We also won another championship not too long ago, in Fort McDowell. Our team has really improved with all the practicing that we have done. If it wasn’t for Ethelene Ray coordinating for the team, we probably wouldn’t have got to where we are,” he said.
Local competition opportunities are limited, because senior centers in Mesa or Scottsdale do not have any chair volleyball teams, and the sport is only popular among the Native communities. Ray said that they have asked the other local teams in the Community to have scrimmages. “We used to every now and then, but nothing ever really happens nowadays,” said Ray.
The Majestics is thinking about playing with the younger generations to show how chair volleyball is harder than it seems.
“We would love someone to give us more competition,” said Ray. “It looks like it might be [easy], but it really isn’t.”
The Majestics have played against youth from time to time, and that has helped them gain more skills and speed in their games.
Ray, who has been playing chair volleyball for three and a half years, said she was “the boy her father never had.”
“I think we are the most sports-minded group among the seniors of the Community,” said Ray. “We would like more people to be a part of the team; we are older than a lot of the seniors of the Community.” Ray said she is very proud of her teammate Josie Duarte for being the oldest team member and for her outstanding performance at the Yuma conference.
“She did an excellent job; both [Josie] and Wanda did a great job,” said Ray. She said the team also thanks the youth who take time to play against the seniors. “They really help us get ready for the tournaments,” said Ray.
The team credits teamwork and continual practicing for its success.
The Majestics Chair Volleyball Team