Lichtsinn, 88, Personifies Volleyball as Lifelong Sport

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | May 28, 2018, 12:13 p.m. (ET)


Bob Lichtsinn (passing for AA Adults Toy Storage) is nearly 89 years old, the oldest athlete competing in the USA Volleyball Open National Championships this week in Dallas

DALLAS (May 28, 2018) – Bob Lichtsinn of Fountain Valley, California, personifies how volleyball is a lifelong sport.

At age 88 and playing for AA Adults Toy Storage in the Men’s 78-and-Over Division of the USA Volleyball Open National Championships this week in Dallas, he only has one regret. Lichtsinn wishes he would have found the sport sooner and played in big tournaments such as the Open Nationals earlier in his playing career.

Lichtsinn, the oldest competitor in this year's USA Volleyball Open National Championships, did not start playing volleyball until he was around 25 years old as a means to do something different. He signed up for courses through his local community college, and got hooked on the game.

Related: USA Volleyball Open National Championships Event Page | Live Stream | Schedule/Results

“I knew I had to do something,” he explained. “I knew a couple people who were playing volleyball, and I thought that would be good exercise. It would get me out of the house for an evening to do something different.

“I played at the local community college and kept playing and kept playing.”

Lichtsinn now plays at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, host city of the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Volleyball Teams. He tries to play twice a week at the ASC in pick-up games for people 50-and-over.

Yet, Lichtsinn was not completely aware of his surroundings when he started playing at the ASC and then to watch the national teams train.

“The first time that I found out about it and went to watch, I looked over from the corner and saw a fellow who looked familiar to me,” Lichtsinn said. “I couldn’t remember where I had seen him before. Then I finally figured out it was Karch Kiraly. Now it is fun to watch the team train.”

But Lichtsinn is not content on just watching the game and playing in pick-up games in Anaheim. Lichtsinn is playing in his fifth USA Volleyball Open National Championships, having played in the recent events in Louisville, Phoenix, twice in Minneapolis and now Dallas. He has also played in the Huntsman Senior Games for seven years.

“It is good when we play in Anaheim,” Lichtsinn said. “It is a bunch of pickup games. But it is good to go to tournaments where they have line judges, referees, the nets are exactly where they should be.”

Playing in his first Huntsman Senior Game, Lichtsinn felt a bitter-sweet cloud hung over him.

“I heard about it, and was invited to play when they were celebrating the 25th anniversary,” Lichtsinn said. “I hated every minute of it because I wish I had heard about it 25 years earlier.”

Lichtsinn honestly did not feel he would be playing at his advanced age if you asked him nearly 50 years ago. He had thought his playing days would be long over by now.

“I knew that when I turned 40, I knew that that would be it. I would quit,” Lichtsinn said. “It happened that the day that I was playing happened to be my 40th birthday. I thought, well gee, I don’t really feel any different today than the day before. For the rest of history, I have been playing from then. Now I play at every opportunity I get.”

He has seen significant changes in the game such as the libero, though he says “I am still not clear on it.” He has also transitioned from the old side-out scoring to today’s rally-scoring system.

The other significant change is just in the physical abilities from his younger days to competing today.

“The difference is when we were younger we could take 1, 2, 3 steps to get to the ball,” Lichtsinn said. “Today, I can’t see anybody our age doing that. We kind of shuffle to make sure we have our balance to hit the ball.”

Lichtsinn has made his health a priority, and that has allowed him to stay in the game he loves.

“God has blessed me with good health and told me what to do,” Lichtsinn said. “And I follow right now what my wife, Marla – a former nurse – says to do. She continually encourages me to eat the right foods and when I should be eating and taking whatever pill.”

Lichtsinn has two bits of advice to for the younger generation that has helped him stay active.

“Practice, practice, practice,” Lichtsinn said. “Practice makes perfect. But nobody is perfect.”

His second bit of advice is to take care of oneself.

“God gave us our bodies, so take good care of them,” Lichtsinn said. “They are a wonderful machine, and we haven’t figured out how to duplicate them. Try to take care of them.”

Lichtsinn is already looking forward to playing at next year’s Open National Championships in Columbus, Ohio.

“For whatever reason, God has blessed me 89 years so far,” Lichtsinn said. “If he continues to bless me with more, I will continue to play. I will tell the people in Anaheim that I may continue to play until I get old.”

Sport Court is the official athletic flooring for all USA Volleyball national championship events.