Welcome to bar league volleyball. Playing on sand trucked inside a facility the size of a field house, teams gather every week no matter what the weather to see who’s the best. It’s not only a good way to break a sweat, it also provides a unique networking opportunity for one group of professionals who gather at The Bar on Lynndale in Appleton.
“Our team is definitely a mish-mash of people. We didn’t all know each other before, but we’ve come together and are able to not only have some fun, but also get to know more about each other and our respective organizations,” says Tiffany Niederwerfer, the director of marketing at The History Museum at the Castle who brought the team together.
Besides Niederwerfer, other team members include Aubree Topai, marketing intern at The History Museum at the Castle; Tara Brzozowski, director of marketing at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center; Jennifer Lanman Reese, a physician assistant at Appleton Cardiology Associates; Julie Koehler, a graphic designer at JanSport; and Abby Gutowski, PR manager at the Weidert Group Inc.
Topai enjoys playing on the team since it provides her with an opportunity to network in a way she usually doesn’t have the opportunity as an intern. “It’s nice to see my boss, Tiffany, in a more relaxed atmosphere. I have also learned a lot about marketing and PR from the other team members,” she says. “It’s great to work with them as a team outside of work.”
The Bar offers volleyball at three of its locations. Besides the Lynndale site, leagues play year-round in Oshkosh and at The Bar on Lime Kiln Road in Green Bay.
Besides Topai, who played volleyball for one year at Lawrence University, other team members have not played since middle or high school. “Playing volleyball has allowed me to be competitive in a way that I don’t normally get to experience,” Gutowski says. “I’ve seen Abby get mad in a way I’ve never seen before” when she doesn’t like a call, Niederwerfer laughs. “It’s a side of her I didn’t know existed.”
For Reese – the only non-marketing professional in the bunch – the weekly games have exposed a world outside of health care. “It’s really interesting to see things from their perspective,” she says.
“It’s really about extending our everyday networks,” Niederwerfer says. “We get together, sit back either before or afterwards with a drink and just talk. It can be about work, our husbands or boyfriends. It’s just a fun time to hang out.”
And yes, since they play at The Bar, there’s usually a beer or two consumed during the evening. “But this isn’t one of those leagues where someone is playing with a beer in one hand. It’s very competitive. We’re out there to win,” Niederwerfer says.
Koehler says the weekly games provide an outlet to burn off stress that builds during the week. “It’s a huge release,” she says.
On a recent night when the team gathered, Brzozowski was working so the team was down to five players. “Look, that happens. We’re all busy professionals. It was really hard putting the team together because everyone has so much going on, but we keep coming back because it’s fun,” Niederwerfer says.
The team’s game times change every week. Sometimes, the game is at 5:30 p.m. while another week it may be at 8 p.m. “Those 5:30 games can get tricky. You’re at the office and trying to leave and you’re like ‘I’m going to play volleyball. I have to go,” Gutowski says. “That sometimes gets a smirk, but it’s true. It’s a lot of fun and it’s well worth the effort to get over here.”