More than 700 play dirty to raise money for clinic


WASHINGTON COUNTY -- His entire head was covered in a coat of brown mud, as if it had been dipped like an ice cream cone in watery chocolate.

There was mud in his eyelashes and dried mud on his teeth when he spoke.

The blue and white of his eyes were nearly all that had been left unscathed.

"I love it. It's awesome," said Allen Hess, 24, of Smithsburg.

Hess was on a team called the Maniacal Mudslingers, representing Turning Point of Washington County on Saturday at the 2009 MUDD Volleyball Tournament to benefit the Community Free Clinic.

More than 700 players sloshed in muddy courts in a field at Hagerstown Regional Airport behind the Citi Family Center, while another 300 people volunteered and watched.


Teams pitched tarps around 10 mud pits for shady reprieve between rounds of play. Rock and hip-hop music blared as barely identifiable, muddied bodies frolicked and competed. Some competitors did both at the same time, while others took their game play more seriously.

Tournament director Brad Kohler said this year was the first time in the tournament's 10-year history that play was divided into competitive and noncompetitive brackets.

Of around 55 teams, he said about half opted for the competitive bracket.

"They are serious. They wanna win," Kohler said. "As you watch those teams, you can sense that."

A glance at a court usually revealed what style of play was taking place.

On the competitive courts, most players were only mud-covered from the hips down. Their filth was the result of splashing in the shin-deep mud or an accidental slip or slide. They generally seemed to stay on their feet in a concerted focus on the rally.

On the noncompetitive courts, on the other hand, players -- covered in mud from head to toe -- cavorted, danced and flailed. From time to time, they even would throw themselves spread-eagled into the mud.

"They just like getting muddy," Kohler said. "It's a chance to let loose and get dirty, and it doesn't matter."

While none of the players -- even those in the competitive bracket -- seemed concerned with staying clean, there was one exception. Players did not want mud in their shoes.

Brian Kelly, who participated last year, advised Amanda Yates, 22, of Clear Spring, a new member of the Dirty Deeds team, to duct tape the top of her shoes to her ankles.

"Mainly, we are just trying to keep the mud out of our shoes," said Kelly, 39, of Hagerstown. "If you don't tape, the mud will pull your shoes off and you'll step on rocks."

Tony Bittner, 35, of Hagerstown, played for the South Pointe Fitness Club in the competitive bracket. Bittner said the mud makes play difficult even for serious players.

"It's so different than playing regular volleyball on a court," Bittner said. "You can't get your footing, so even if you are an athlete, it makes it really hard to dig or to spike."

Kohler said Callas Contractors digs the courts, then fills them back up following the event.

Each team of up to 12 players paid a $350 registration fee. Robin Roberson, executive director of the Community Free Clinic, said the tournament raised $35,000 for the clinic last year with 40 teams participating. With 15 more teams competing this year, Roberson said she anticipated the event would bring in about $45,000.

"This year, we expected that it would be a big challenge to even meet the 40 teams we had last year, then we surpassed it," she said. "I am very surprised and, at the same time, very excited."

Roberson said proceeds will go directly to patient care. She said with $256, the clinic is able to provide care to one patient for an entire year, including blood work and medications.

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