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Mike Dodd and the Legacy of the Manhattan Open

by Mike Dodd

On Friday the AVP shut down operations and went bankrupt. On Monday CBVA was chosen to host the 2010 Manhattan Beach Open. In a shocking twist of events, tournament director J Parker Saikley convinced the Manhattan Beach City Council to play the event under “old-school” rules, against the advice of CBVA president Chris Brown. “Old-school” rules include the larger court (30′x30′), no antennas, and an all-leather Wilson ball. These are Dodd’s thoughts as addressed to Mark Leyman of the Manhattan Beach City Council.

Dear Mark,

I am writing today not as the former commissioner of the AVP but as a resident of Manhattan Beach for 53 years and someone who loved Charlie Saikley and loves the Manhattan Open.

I believe the size of a court or the rules from a particular era do not define a mans legacy.  Charlie Saikley’s legacy is one of honor, integrity, toughness and above all fairness.  Those words define Charlie Saikley, not only as a Tournament director and shepard of the greatest Open there is but as a loyal employee of Manhattan Beach, a man, a husband and a father.

The legacy of the Manhattan Open is that it is the ultimate test, to determine the best players in the sport of Beach Volleyball.  The Tournament and Mr. Saikley in each and every era submitted to the prevailing rules of the day because (for whatever reason, be it cultural or institutional) those were the rules under which the best players were training and preparing.

Like Mr. Saikley, the legacy of the Manhattan Open is not defined by the size of a court or the rules in effect from one particular era. The first tournament I remember (early sixties) they played the winners bracket matches 2 out of 3 to 11 side-out scoring, there was no blocking over the net, and no one jump served.  Will blocking over the net and jump serving be banned from this years tournament as well to “honor the legacy”?

In less than a month, you will have Karch Kiraly and his Wide Open Tour on the sands of Manhattan Beach.  That Tour is wonderful, and it celebrates the rules and style of play from a bygone era.  The tour is made up of everyone from grassroots players to AVP players enjoying the challenges and unique skill set to succeed under those rules.  You don’t need two of the same thing!

Let the very best players in the world play the game under the rules and format that for the better part of a decade they have been training for and perfecting.  It’s just my opinion and regardless I will encourage all players to participate. 

I wish you all the best,
Mike Dodd


  • Ted Graf says:

    Well said Mike.
    May professional volleyball find a loving new home.

  • Name says:


    While I don’t really know you personally, we have spoken several times over the years. Aside from always being very polite and friendly, I’ve always thought of you as a smart, even-keeled, common-sense kind of guy. I think this letter proves that point. Why, out of the blue, anyone would want to shift gears and make a dramatic change to the game for one tournament does not fall in line with what I would call good common-sense. I hope the city of MB agrees with you (and me) and plays the tournament under the current rules. Best of luck!

    Tim in San Diego

  • Ryan H. says:

    I enjoy the nostalgia of “old school” rules. I think it would be interesting to watch an AVP event just to see how the results may differ, but as a serious change to the rules I think it is a big mistake. I completely agree with Mike Dodd.

  • Brandi says:

    It’s just ONE tournament and seeing as it’s he 50th anniversary what’s the harm? The players won’t lose all of their training or forget how to pass a ball. The FIVB balls are different than the yellow Wilson’s, you don’t hear the athletes complaining about that switch.

    Everyone needs to chill out.

    Let’s enjoy the 50th Anniversary of the open and watch the pros play the way they did all those years ago this ONE time. It’s going to be awesome.

  • John Moore says:

    Well said Mike. But I am very happy The Manhattan is going to be played “Old School”. I’ve always felt the short court, rally scoring and let serve rendered beach volleyball more of a child’s game, like Miniature Golf is to Golf. I remember your battles on the big court very well and enjoy watching them on TV from time to time. Watching you play short court though, I don’t know. You just look too big for the court, you know. How would it look if basketball were played on a small court? Yeah, pretty silly.
    But I respect you and all you’ve done for the sport. I’ll have to change my tune now next time someone mentions miniature volleyball at the Rudder Room. We have never changed at the Rud to the new school format. The old Spaulding 18 is still the only ball. Oh the girls play short court, but that ok as we are all getting pretty old now and can’t cover the yardage like the 80′s. If you are in the area, stop by and enjoy a cold one, the big court (no pesky antenna) and the best sand on the West Coast.

    Best always

    John Moore
    Rudder Room Volleyball

  • Oguz says:

    There are some good reasons for new rule changes. It’s not like one person likes the new rules and rest of the world has to play with it. It’s for sport’s own good.

    Why is it so hard for some people to accept and keep up with new things/rules? Most people like and want old school rules because that’s what they are used to and they probably can’t play that well with the new rules so old school looks better for them.

    If the new rules are for kids then old rules for babies because you have to perform everything better now.


  • JB says:

    Well said, Mike! Short court is way more fun to watch and play. I hope they agree.

  • manny says:

    Why the hell not. The pros nowdays are better athletes then the past and could handle the old school no problem. Obvi the feel they shouldn t have to!! The problem is they arent trained with old school rules. They feel they are current pros and dont want play old school but could no problem. I appreciate Manhatten beach stepping up and I hope some pros step up and play in the tourney. Asterics are seemingly a part of modern games and if I had the height and skillz I would own the Manhatten and take the asteric next to my and my partners name. Come on man play the damn game. What else you got going on man. This is the only game in town!!

  • Richard says:

    Perfect Mike. The best players and tours around the world play the new rules. That’s what should be played at the highest level in the united states. And by the way, they aren’t “new rules”. They’re 8-10yrs old!

    And Brandi, the players DO complain about switching from the yellow/white AVP wilson balls to the Mikasa balls…

  • Craig says:

    Well said, Mike. Yet another example why you have been one of the driving forces of the game for as long as you have. We have other outlets to step “back in the day”. The Granddaddy of Them All should represent the best of the day under the auspices of the current game.

  • AJ Mihalic says:

    I changed my mind. It IS only one event, so what the heck….I say use a water-soaked pre-spalding and pre-wilson rad pink volleyball the way real men played the real game. But make it way realer and make the court even BIGGER. I say at least 41′x52′ per side. Why be symmetrical? I also think the net should lowered to 5′ high, then soaked with burning napalm. The scoring should be side-out style to 100. Bad hand sets should be punished with paper cuts and the losing team caned with a bamboo switch. All courts should be completely surrounded by naked women serving beers.

    Of course, Phil would still win.

  • domcho says:

    You know what? This whole debate about Old Rules vs New Rules is creating excellent buzz which might eventually bring in new sponsors. So, the question really is: Is this just very well planned PR campaign?

  • Kenneth says:

    Imagine if the upcoming NFL football season was played “old school” without the forward pass (with only running plays), and then we’ll see if the old school fans think it’s good for the game.

    And I was even among the last of my friends to finally switch from the white volleyball to the yellow volleyball.

  • Maria says:

    Well said Mike!

  • Phil says:

    Mike is a great ambassador of the sport of beach Volleyball and very diplomatic. But I bet his partner Tim Hovland would have said it flat out that the new rules are not as good but in a more dramatic way he would say it. I strongly feel that the old rules are very important to have at the Manhattan. I just wish the guys who are playing on the FIVB tour that week would have played here. One reason I like the old rules better is because of parody. Who doesnt like the little guy and who doesnt like new faces in the finals. If Phil were playing in this he would probably win but there is that 20% chance that a smaller guy might beat him.
    Phil right now is winning 100% of the time. With the longer court he would I bet only win 80% of the time.
    The old school rules would give the little guy that little bit of an edge against him.
    So why not favor that the little guy. And AJ you are totally crazy but funny. Although it feels like the apocalypse now because of the AVP no longer is around we dont need napalm and the music from Wagner blaring as helicopters fire down upon the players

  • AJ Mihalic says:

    @Phil – Maybe your comment is a parody, but I’ll take it at face value.

    Proposing the “old rules”, by which I’m assuming we mean circa 1999 rules, to somehow mitigate the dominance of a player like Phil (Dalhauser) is a completely antithetical suggestion. This is especially true with the sideout scoring system. The change to rally scoring and the let serve (being an in-play ball) introduced more parity to the sport than ever before. I think a trip to bvbinfo.com would clearly show the LACK of parity in top finishers in the 1990′s. In fact, I bet you could name the top 10 players back then without even going to that site.

    Anyway, I’d be surprised to see a reasonable argument justifying how a bigger court would favor any type of player in a way that it would not also favor Phil. 80% of the time would also be ridiculously dominant in sports. Phil has won 72% of AVP and FIVB events he entered in 2010, 55% in 2009, and 68% in 2007. Those numbers are not including HWN which I assume would lower his percentage. I point this out not to nit-pick, but to point out that, in a much harder setting to be dominant, he’s about as equally dominant as Karch was in the side-out scoring 90′s.

    To be clear to, those are actually the two rule changes that I dislike the most. I would prefer the let serve should be “a let” or re-do, and sideout scoring be the norm. The court size made the game more difficult to play well, and increased the amount of player-to-ball contact, which I think are good things.

    I’d like to assume by “smaller guy” you mean a less known player, not a less tall player, but by the context it appears you literally mean “little.” Any arguments to tailor the game to a certain type of athlete or style of player is frivolous unless it is somehow backed by an explanation of value to the sport. Of course a little known player would have a better “chance” in rally scoring since it effectively shortens the time of play.

    Comparison to other sports seems to be equally antithetical to big court arguments. Why would volleyball be the one sport where the court size is not adjusted for the number of players? I’ve never heard of anyone playing 2 on 2 basketball on a full court, or 4 on 4 football on a full field, etc. with any serious belief that the game should be converted. Often, small format sports will reduce the goal size too. In volleyball the court IS the goal, so reducing the size is inline with the thinking of ALL other sports. As you know, the “big court” was the size intended for 12 players, or in China 18 players.

    Additionally, I frequently see claims that there are not dramatic rules change in other sports. Rule changes that affect scoring or critical elements of the game are the norm. There is hardly a reason to make a rule at all UNLESS it affects some critical element of the game.

    Hovland is still alive and free to comment on the 2010 Manhattan open. If you can reference a relevant quote from the Hov, please toss it in. I’m sure his remarks will be well thought out and additive. I think Eddie Vedder said it best when he remarked, “2010, watch it go to fire….”

  • Allen F says:

    It’s a shame our sport has come to this. I thought the rules debate ended a decade ago. We (old guys) lost. I’ve moved on and so has the game. The rules did not bring down the tour. I believe they helped (except of course the let serve). This is not the right event to revert to sideout scoring. Kudos to M.D. and Kerri for voicing their opinions. Some tape the finals for me.

    20+ year player/fan

  • JB says:

    We’re all here to witness the death of an institution: the CBVA. J Saikley is spearheading an effort to help the CBVA rocket into oblivion! Let them play the tournament with the old school rules so that Brian Meckna and Kevin Cleary can get their names on the Pier!

    Come on folks, this is ridiculous. You don’t push pro golfers to play with antiquated clubs and balls on courses without greens in the name of “memorial” or nostalgia. You don’t force the NBA to play a game with a fruit basket nailed to a wall on a court made of asphalt.

    If this tournament takes place with the old school rules (and I doubt Chris Brown was at odds with Saikley here, he was one of the last old school tournament director hold-outs) I propose the following:

    Lets play a game of Mintonette. Now that would be a memorial to Morgan, the sports true founder, and someone who should be honored by playing the game with 9 players on each side playing nine innings with 3 serves per team per inning with the bladder of a basketball. (Oh, and the women should have more players per side…per the original rules, ya know…women are “less capable than men” aaccording to the original rules. That would help this sport grow, I think. Let’s do it!

  • tom0 says:


    I’d be interested to hear about your opinions regarding correlation between the advent of the short court and the trend toward big man/small man teams.

    It seemed to me that these days every team consists of a big blocker and a small defender (with Patterson/Wong being the notable exception this year). (And when I say small, I don’t mean 5’8″, but 6’1). It didn’t used to be this way – what would be considered small/small teams used to win – I think Karch/Kent and Dax/Todd would be in that group.

    It seems that the move from these small/small teams to big/small teams seems to correlate with the switch to the short court. Would you agree? I don’t think the other rule changes – let serve, rally scoring, antennas – have much connection to this trend. Or do you think that this big/small team transition would have occurred regardless of the court-size change?

    Another effect of this trend towards big/small teams is that it seems that because of the relatively small number of quality big guys, they pretty well hold the all the cards in times of partner switching while quality small guys go begging.

    My feelings on the matter is that if the court size reduction contributed to the dominance of the big man, then I like the big court. No offense to you AJ, or other big guys out there, but I don’t want another sport, especially my sport, going the way of being dominated by tall guys. I want a sport where speed and height are more in balance and two 6′ 2″ guys have a chance to win the whole thing as well as a 6’8″ guy and a blazing fast 5’11″ guy.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on the matter.

  • Lawrence Chappe says:

    honestly, all this fighting and going back and forth over the rules of volleyball which by the way have been implemented for 10 YEARS is only damaging the sport of volleyball furthermore…. It makes no sense!!! It doesnt matter which rules favors wether it’d be taller or shorter players.. THE ARE THE RULES!!!! If you dont like them, dont play our sport!… We are killing volleyball in the united States with this crap! The rest of the wold has moved on, why do WE have to be the ignorant, the closed minded ones who cant get past a stupid rule!! If you’re short, sucks to be you! Sorry, the sport will move on with the new rules, and wether you’re short, tall, fat or skinny you either move on with the sport or get left behind…

  • John Moore says:

    …Is this just very well planned PR campaign?

    Those familiar with forum talk would be calling this a “grand troll”. I love it. You are right, there is a lot of interest being generated over this topic. A.J.’s post is great, … burning napalm. :) I’m learning a lot through these discussions. I just want the MO to be played. I like old school for sure, but it’s still fun to watch it on TV even if it is FIVB or AVP short court, sissy rules. Just kidding. But Phil does kind of look silly on that small court. I really think it should be a one on one game, like singles in tennis. Then Phil would look challenged. The short court game just looks too easy, not worthy of the athletes abilities. Oh, a rerun of the ’88 battle between Smith-Stoklos-Holvand-Dobb just came on , did you see that foot dig !! Gotta go, playin at the Rudd… OLD SCHOOL :)

  • Lawrence Chappe says:

    @ tom0

    Dude, just accept it.. Volleyball changed 10 years ago!!! If by now you have not moved on you may want to consider quitting the sport…. Sorry, it is the way it is.. Dont be mad because you werent fortunate enough to be 6’8″.. Just play harder, smarter. . . . My point is, no one cares that you dont like the rules! (at least no one that really matters) … The rules are the rules, if you dont like them, quit playing.. its very simple!

  • AJ Mihalic says:

    @tom0 – I have no preference for certain height people, nor do I believe certain height people have certain skill sets. If two 6’11″ guys can things that allow them to dominate the game, that’s awesome. If two 5’2″ guys can do totally awesome stuff, that makes me happy to watch too. Quality of a player is determined by their ability to win, not their height.

    I consider myself small in today’s game considering the average defender is taller than me and extremely good. This doesn’t take into account the fact that Phil was voted best defender because he is so incredible he redefined the capabilities of a blocker. Defense is really preventing the other team from scoring, which he does more efficiently than any solely back court player. Please don’t neglect to notice that Hyden Scott are easily the second most successful team on tour, and they are both 6’5″.

    I personally tried to go with a faster style split-blocking team, and I believe rally score is the main reason for teams to stick with one strategy. The amount of defensive repetitions or attempts a player gets are limited by the amount of rallies in the game. Thus, it makes sense to have players in roles that they are more suited to. Therefore it further implies that you should find the players most suited toward that skill set. So, if you are planning on having a dedicated blocker, find the best one you can. The best guys tend to be big. You also want to find the best defender. This is why teams tend toward roles. Each role player gets the maximum amount of attempts in their primary role in a short period of time.

    However, both skill sets have to be balanced with all around playing ability and other definable and intangible chemistry components for a team to be successful. Having a guy who digs every ball, but can’t put the ball away isn’t even a wash. It’s a liability.

    This is why small defenders are vanishing from the game. Their weakness has just become more apparent as more offensive precision became a requirement. This is a result of antennas and a smaller court for sure, but just because the game is harder doesn’t mean it’s worse. Obviously being big and fast and agile and smart is going to make a player better. Look at LeBron. He walked out of high school and started dominating NBA players almost like he was playing high school players. Was it because he was bigger than all the players? He’s an inch taller than the 2007 league average but not even close to the top 10 tallest players. He’s not Wilt, he’s a 6’8″ player who is a more balanced and “smoother” athlete than EVERYBODY else. Should we complain about the fact that 6’6″ guys don’t play center in the NBA anymore, or embrace the higher caliber, bigger athletes?

    Obviously, you don’t need to match Phil in physical ability to beat him. He loses tournaments almost 40% of the time. He’s losing to players who aren’t as big and agile as he is. They tend to be players who are really, really good at volleyball which is really the “skill-set” we’re all looking for, as players and fans.

    Also, 6’1″ guys CAN compete and do well…and even beat Phil. Please meet singer, song-writer John Mayer.

  • Brandy Kosty says:

    That giant heavy pumpkin ball will send a lot of players home with sore shoulders…

  • Marcos says:

    I am fan and want game to be good game. PLay new rules.

  • tom0 says:

    Thanks for your reply, AJ. I enjoy your thought-out and well-reasoned comments, except perhaps when mentioning lighting nets on fire with napalm.

    I’m glad you brought up Phil. If all volleyball players were as skilled as Phil, I’d have no argument. But that’s not the case. So I’m wondering if the short court gives disproportionate advantage to the big guy. Even though there’s still a place in the game for the short guys as defenders, with the larger pool of quality defenders relative to quality big blockers, is it pushing the small guys out? (I’m no demographer, but it seems like there’s more small, quick guys than tall, coordinated guys). Put it another way, are relatively less skilled big men taking spots in the draw away from more skilled short guys?

    In basketball, they will take a some large mammal and stick him in the paint and tell him to swat at anything spherical in his reach. It would be great if every big player is LeBron but that’s not the case and it seems to me that the fundamental rules of basketball gives teams incentives to try out the unskilled tall guy. I’m wondering if the short court does the same thing to a degree in volleyball. My desire as a fan is to see the best skilled players out there whether short or tall, fast or slow, and I would disappointed if the rules push us in a direction where that is not the case and height trumps everything.

    It just seems that the short court while not completely pushing short guys out of the game, makes their participation in the game dependent on the big guy. The singer-songwriter has beaten Phi, but in today’s world, would he seriously consider partnering with, say, Billy? I think that the short court does disproportionately favor the big man because while guys will try big/big (Pat/Wong), no one these days would try small/small (Hyden/Scott I would call tweener/tweener – scary to think that a tweener is now 6’5″). It would seem that the rules and the game are skewed towards the tall (which isn’t surprising since it is played in a gravitational field). But just as basketball had to modify the rules because of Bill Russell, is the short court, in reverse, giving disproportionate advantage to big guys?

  • AJ Mihalic says:

    At this point, there is no prize money. Does it still qualify as a professional event?

    I think you underestimate the skill of big athletes. I’ve played plenty of tall 6’10-7’0 players who are terrible.

  • There are Athletes and there are tall people. Athletes Come in many sizes… Tall people can also be athletes. but most tall players are just tall… especially in Beach Volleyball. or Volleyball in General.

    Shaq is tall. FACT
    Shaq is Athletic. Not really

    Who ever wins this tournament will have they’re name placed at the Manhattan Beach pier. That is priceless!!!. so booo hooo if your crying about cash prizes.

    Just play for the love of this sport. Its not about you anymore. your presence will define this sport in this country and the world.

    And They need to stress the fact that they are doing this because its the 50th Aniv. of the Manhattan Open. not because JP woke up and Randomly decides to use old school rules. This is a remembrance of the past, paying respect to the legends who started this sport.

    I will be there this weekend sitting on the sand, watching the Finals just like how they used to, just like those black in white pictures in Good Stuff.

    See you there…


  • Andrew says:

    Sayre’s Law: “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue.”

    It’s sad that people only start caring once something is already dead.

  • Pat says:

    I would like to see old, old school rules like it was in sixth grade: asphalt surface, big rubber ball and underhand serves.

  • Rod says:

    Mike is 100% correct. Volleyball, along with just about every other sport in out there, continually changes the rules from year to year. Just because some one doesn’t like them personally is not a valid reason to throw them all out at your showcase event. Have an exhibition court played under different rules, but quit messing with various rule sets for different places. If you love the sport, you must respect and play by the rules that are in place at the current time. Karch has made a poor choice, as did Manhattan Beach in agreeing to this. We have had international beach success for many years thanks to consistency in rules handed down from the FIVB and through USA Volleyball. We threaten to become a sidenote in international history if we suddenly start thinking we are so much smarter than everyone else. Maybe that doesn’t matter to you, but it clearly does to the professional athletes who are trying to cobble together a living at this profession. Then, look at the indoor game. One set of rules for high school, another for club, another for college and another for international. Granted we had Olympic success in China, but it has been few and far between.

  • Sean B says:

    I think we (the sport and its athletes and fans) should just move on from Manhattan Beach. Let them throw their rock-hurtling contest on the airfield landing strip that is the old court. Let them throw it every year. And let us, the remaining 99.9999% of the sport, found a new tournament through USAV (or the all-new AVP 2011) at a great location like Mission Beach, Huntington Pier, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara or [insert location here]. Joke Saikley will get the remainder of his 15 minutes of fame this year, four people will get their names on the pier with an asterik forever emblazoned in our minds on their plaques and every plaque that is placed from 2011 and beyond. There will be this carnival “contest” that the City of Manhattan Beach throws every year and then there will be the rest of beach volleyball

  • jj says:

    I can see it now AVP champs vs Manhattan/CBVA winners playing in a winner takes all on a “medium” court 2012

  • Sean B says:

    In an ironic twist of retarded fate, the CBVA is running a short court Men’s Open in Long Beach this Saturday with Cash and prizes. OMG.

  • [...] Mike Dodd and the Legacy of the Manhattan Open | KindaGood “Old-school” rules include the larger court (30′x30′), no antennas, and an all-leather Wilson ball These are Dodd's thoughts as addressed to Mark Leyman of the Manhattan Beach City Council. Dear Mark, And Brandi, the players DO complain about switching from the yellow/white AVP wilson balls to the Mikasa balls… Craig says: August 19, 2010 at 12:02 am. Well said, Mike. Yet another example why you have been one of the driving forces of the game for as long as you have. [...]

  • george95662 says:

    I agree with Mike Dodd and the comments he made. I nominate Mike to rally the troops and get together a Pro Beach VB tournament for the USA (hopefully before Spring 2011).

    I still don’t understand why so many people take Manhattan Beach seriously. So what if the game started there? While the rest of the world moves forward, just let them do whatever they want. They are not the only city with a pier in which to place names.

  • Alan says:

    First of all, like Brandi said before, it’s just ONE tournament. Why not be flexible, have some fun with it OR just don’t play? There is no reason to make it into any kind of “political statement”…I mean, Dude, this is beaches, breezes, and ballin’ we’re talking about here. Manhattan Beach organizers aren’t saying that this will be the format going forward forever. Maybe they just want to throw in a little “retro” in honor of the 50th Anniversary. Isn’t the history of the beach game about “chil-laxing” and having fun with a little friendly competition thrown in for good measure?

  • Name says:

    Just played long court today for the first time in many many years and had no problem making the change. Old school rules is a far more enjoyable game to watch. It allows players, who may be height challenged, to succeed. Dana Camacho reaching the finals is proof. I’m happy Phil and Todd did not play. They’re just too boring. Wachtfogel and Rosenthal are two incredible athletes who have and show real excitement and passion for game. Keep the old school and get rid of the FIVB BS.

  • Wade Canton says:

    i’ve played on both courts and while i can say that i enjoy the new rules of the game its good to have a few tournaments a year that bring back the old school style, Its fun but the newer rules are more enjoyable because of longer more exciting rallies due to a shorter court, enjoyable to the fans which are the ones we need to be able to properly fund our profession.

    @lawrence Chappe , you suck bro, jk luv you man…. but ur so mean!


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