The Soboba Elders formed Chair Volleyball teams several years ago and practiced the sport regularly. But sidelined by the pandemic, friendly competitions and trips to compete at other Reservations had to be put on hold for a while. Everyone was excited to start meeting again at the beginning of 2022.
So far this year, the Elders’ three teams have participated in three tournaments. At Viejas, from June 13-15, where 35 teams participated, Soboba Team 2 placed third in the Bronze Division and took home a trophy. More than 50 teams, 12 of them from California, turned out for the Aug. 9-11 tournament at Avi, Arizona, where Soboba Team 2 placed fourth in the Gold Division. While trophies were only awarded to the top three teams in each division, the team had fun competing.
The most recent tournament, at Pala Oct. 10-12, saw Soboba Team 1 place first in the Silver Division, taking home a huge trophy for their efforts in field of 36 teams. All players agree that the strength of each of the teams is the camaraderie.
Soboba Team 1 members are Sandy Boniface, Joyce Placencia, Gary Placencia, Francine Miranda, Lucille Briones and Team Captain Charles Resvaloso.
Soboba Team 2 members are Francie Salgado-Diaz, Frances Arviso, Rosemary Morillo, Linda Resvaloso-Whitener, Raina Salgado-Maciel, Poncho Maciel, Ronda Placencia and Team Captain Glen Placencia.
Soboba Team 3 members are Kathy Duro, Lori Duro, Virginia Duenaz, Albert Duenaz, Charlotte Boniface, Debbie Morillo and Team Captain Ronnie Morillo.
Lucille Briones has been playing for about three years but has been active in sports her entire life, such as softball which was her favorite, basketball, volleyball and league bowling. She said being on the chair volleyball team has helped her get out more and stay active.
“An important skill you need in chair volley is getting the ball over the net and making sure you stay seated in your chair at all times,” she said. “What I like most about chair volleyball is I get exercise, meet new people and have a few laughs.”
Briones said the Pala Tournament was well organized and the Pala Tribe took care of all the players that participated. “I enjoyed meeting other Natives from different Reservations, and I liked the competition because we played new teams which were very good and competitive.”
Joyce Placencia has also played basketball and softball and as recently as a few years ago was still playing regular volleyball. She said the most important skill or quality to have is the desire to play. She enjoys having fun with family and friends and said, “My mom told us to always keep moving or your life becomes stagnant; playing this sport helps with that.”
Glen Placencia said he has played just about every sport there is, except golf, and finds chair volleyball requires flexibility and good hand/eye coordination.
“Playing gives me a sense of purpose, knowing that my team depends on me to be there,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and we get to reconnect with our friends and family.”
Ronda Placencia says teamwork is essential to the sport and she likes being able to see all the other team members when they travel to tournaments. She also said it has helped her get out of the house and be more flexible.
Gary Placencia was also a multi-sport athlete who said agility and quickness are important skills to have when playing chair volleyball. He said playing the sport gives him quite a workout.
Raina Salgado-Maciel has a softball and tennis background and has found that having fast reflexes, a good sense of humor and good sportsmanship will help anyone be successful at chair volleyball.
“I like socializing, just getting out and having a good time; we have a lot of good hard laughs during our practices,” she said. “But even though we laugh and have a good time at our practices, we get a little more serious at tournaments, where it’s great to see old friends and meet new ones.”
Frank Maciel said patience is important to have and he enjoys the upper body exercise that the sport provides. He likes the tournaments because they get to compete with people around the same age. He also enjoys the fact it’s a sport he can play with his wife, Raina.
Linda Resvaloso-Whitener said she enjoys playing chair volleyball with her relatives. Being calm and staying in your chair is critical to playing the game well, she said. Her favorite part of the Pala tournament was to be there as motivation for all the players.
“We’re all one people, we cheer for each other’s teams,” she said.
Francie Salgado-Diaz was an active athlete in high school and was awarded an MVP award in her senior year for basketball. Along with her twice weekly chair volleyball practices where she enjoys the socialization, she does water aerobics three times a week. To her, having a good sense of humor and good sportsmanship are the most important skills to bring to any sport.
Francine Miranda says it helps to have fast reflexes for this game and credits her involvement with improving her focus and helping her move a lot better. She also likes traveling to other Reservations.
Rosemary Morillo likes the fact this team sport brings all the Elders together. She enjoys the social time and seeing people she hasn’t seen in a while when they go to tournaments. Overall, it helps her keep active.
Charles Resvaloso said practice, teamwork and focus are important factors for players. He enjoys meeting and socializing with other Native seniors and said winning championships is a reward of commitment. As a member of Soboba Team 1 he said his favorite part of the Pala tournament was “winning and watching other teams compete.”
Albert and Virginia Duenaz started playing this year and have learned that to be good at the game, you just need to do your best, show up at every practice and have fun.
“It brings each of us out of our comfort zone, but we get exercise and have fun,” Virginia said. She said participating in the tournaments is good because it shows them where they can improve.
Virginia said being part of the team has provided her and Albert with an overall good feeling of belonging to something positive and getting to see Elders from different Tribes doing the same.
Lorina Duro is also new to the sport but already enjoys getting together and having fun with others. She said it has made her more active and she’s able to move better. Katherine Duro joined at the same time as Lorina and both agree that good sportsmanship is key to playing a good game. She said it has motivated her to get better every time she plays.
Katherine likes being with her fellow Elders, “We all know each other, everyone encourages you and when one team wins, we all win.”
Most tournaments have the same format where the first day is Pool Play, the second day is Tournament Play and the third day is when the Championship games are played. The Soboba teams arrange to arrive a day before Pool Play because the host invites all players to a banquet the evening before the first day of the tournament. The host also provides breakfast and lunch each day for all participants during the tournament and there’s usually some sort of entertainment each evening where players have the opportunity to socialize off the court with teams from other Tribes.
Members of Soboba Team 3 are new this year and chose not to participate in the first Viejas tournament. However, they did play in the Avi and Pala tournaments where they played exceptionally well. The next tournament is scheduled for March at Salt River, Arizona.
The teams practice Monday and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., wherever they can find a place to practice. The Sports Complex hosts many events there so the volleyball players have been utilizing the multipurpose room adjacent to the Soboba Tribal Preschool. Sometimes there is availability at the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center where they can meet.
Glen Placencia is the Coach for all three teams. He oversees and organizes the teams, orders the uniforms and supplies, and makes contact for the tournaments and practice games.
The players have had practice games with other local tribes including Morongo, Torres-Martinez, Rincon and Pala. So far, all the tournaments have been held at casino event centers. All Soboba Elders and a guest are invited to travel with the volleyball teams to their tournaments where they can come and cheer on the teams or just hang out and get some R&R.
Raina Salgado-Maciel said, “We need only three more Soboba Elders to start a fourth team, so we encourage all Elders to come out and have fun!”
The Soboba Elders Program’s services are for Soboba Tribal Elder members who are 55 years of age or older and may include their non-Tribal spouse and non-Tribal spouses of deceased Tribal members, and descendants of the Soboba Tribe who are 55 and older. The Elders Program exists to promote and protect the Tribe’s customs and traditions, rights and interests and to provide services, activities, recreation and events that promote the general well-being for a more enjoyable life for the Soboba Elders membership. Board Members who keep things running smoothly are President Glen Placencia, Vice President Suzanne (Soza) Verdugo and Secretary/Treasurer Raina Salgado-Maciel.
The Elders are very grateful to their fellow Tribal members for allowing them an annual budget to support this program. They were able to enjoy a wonderful trip to Hawaii in Sept. More than 50 Elders and their guests traveled to Waikiki Beach and stayed at the Moana Surfrider Hotel and were able to attend a Luau and Hawaii’s 46th Annual Honolulu Intertribal Powwow September 10-11.
From Oct. 21-24, 34 Elders attended the 44th National Indian Finals Rodeo at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas. As 2022 comes to an end, they have a few more events scheduled, for their program and for community outreach, which they love to do as often as they can.
On Oct. 31, the Soboba Elders will provide treats to the preschool students at the annual “Trunk or Treat” event. Nov. 13 is the date of the Elders Thanksgiving Luncheon at 1 p.m. at the SCR Event Center. They will be traveling to other Reservations to celebrate holiday parties with Elders from the following tribes: Barona, Nov. 16; Pala, Dec. 1; Morongo, Dec. 6; and Pechanga, Dec. 7. A Christmas Lunch and Party for Elders and a guest will be Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. at the SCR Event Center. They are hoping they will be able to have a New Year’s celebration this year and will be keeping members informed.
For more information about the Elders Program, contact coordinator Erica Schenk at 951-392-1900 or by email at Elders@Soboba-nsn.gov.
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians