This is a story about a crusade. And volleyball. And my surname.
OK, maybe “crusade” is a bit of an overstatement—those tend to get out of hand. But you know how sometimes a stray lash in the corner of your eye starts to feel like a wood chip once you’re focused on it? How a solitary fly in your bedroom in the middle of the night can start to sound like a Learjet? The lengths to which you’ll sometimes go to figure out who sang that song about a beach that really sounds like Jimmy Buffet, but you know isn’t?
Then you’ll understand.
My last name—Forbes—is one of those that’s not exactly common, but certainly not unique. It pops up here and there on occasion, just enough so that I get a kick out of seeing it, and wonder if I’m in some way related. Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who keeps a team of skilled genealogists on retainer in a thus-far fruitless attempt to establish a connection to the Forbes publishing empire. Hey, they write…I write…there’s got to be something there.
Since I do make my living in and around the world of sports though, whenever a Forbes does something athletically noteworthy, I take a certain amount of pride. This started all the way back when I was a kid, and Jim Forbes was a member of the 1972 Olympic basketball team, and actually on the court when the U.S. “lost” to the Soviet Union on the third do-over of the final play.
Since then I’ve come across Forbes’es in a wide variety of sports. There’s even a health and fitness television personality with the first name of Forbes. And for a time, I was absolutely, positively certain I shared DNA with a swimmer from Central Florida University named Alexander Forbes. See, the name Alexander is deeply embedded in my particular branch of the family tree. In fact, back in the day when that kind of thing was in vogue, Alexander Forbes was quite the pirate—skull and crossbones, “Aaargh!” and everything. Of course we now refer to him as an “import-export specialist” when in mixed company.
At some point in the summer of 2014 though, I came across my first volleyball-playing Forbes.
It was while glancing through the field of entrants prior to visiting one of my favorite sporting events in the universe, the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) Manhattan Beach Open, that this occurred. As all aspiring beach volleyballers well know, one of the many wonderful and unique things that set the MBO apart is that, throughout its illustrious history, the “Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball” has maintained an open-qualifier tradition, meaning that a handful of men and women amateurs with the appropriate chops and moxie can play their way into the professional tournament.
As it happened, out from the list of two-person teams attempting to navigate this tournament-before-the-tournament qualifying process popped a compelling entrant. I quickly dialed my team of genealogists and barked out, “Put ‘Project Uncle Malcolm’ on hold, and find out if I’m related to beach volleyball player Presley Forbes!”
Looking forward to rooting on one of my tribe, I made sure I arrived early for the first day of the MBO, only to find out that Presley and her partner, Lorna Brandt, hadn’t survived the Qualifier. But later that evening, I did a little digging and discovered a perfectly plausible reason for their early exit. Could it be, perhaps, that Brandt was just a 17-year-old high school student? Or maybe that Forbes herself had only recently turned fifteen? Just showing up to play in the Qualifier took some guts.
Now I was really intrigued. And once captivated by a unique sports story, I’m almost helpless to resist. Of course I was going to check this out; and in no time at all I came across Team WAVE (We Are Volleyball Elite), a youth volleyball program that was founded by none other than Presley’s parents, Daron and Jimmy Forbes. And what really caught my eye was that both Daron and Jimmy appear to have walked away from presumably lucrative careers in the investment business to pursue this passion. Sadly, the latter died at far too young an age, and in 2010 his obituary read partially,
“In honor of his life, the Jimmy Forbes Volleyball Foundation has been established in conjunction with Beach Cities Volleyball to allow players from needy families who want to participate in positive volleyball experience that they could not otherwise afford. Jimmy Forbes’ fervent hope was that every child who wanted to participate in a positive volleyball experience would be able to and the Jimmy Forbes Volleyball Foundation has been created to allow this to occur.”
Through the efforts of Daron, that initiative evolved into Team WAVE, which, in its relative infancy seems to be succeeding in its mission of grooming young volleyball players for serious competition—and if all goes right, perhaps college scholarships.
This was interview gold! I quickly dashed off an email to Daron at her Team WAVE address, asking if she’d be willing to share more of her story with an interested writer. Hearing nothing back, I tried again two weeks later. This time my email was returned as undeliverable. Hmmm. This family reunion might not be as easy to pull off as I thought.