Pomona student passes on love for beach volleyball, bringing the club back to the 5Cs

Ulas Ayyilmaz PO ’24 poses in front of his table at the annual 5C club dinner. The event, also known as “Turf Dinner,” took place on Tuesday. (Courtesy: Ulas Ayyilmaz)

When Ulas Ayyilmaz PO ’24 could no longer play club volleyball at his peak level, owing to a health condition, he decided to take things down a notch — by bringing back what he says is a more ‘relaxed’ version of his favorite pastime. 

The answer to his conundrum? For Ayyilmaz, it was reviving the beach volleyball club at the 5Cs. 

Ayyilmaz is an international student from Izmir, Turkey. TSL sat down with him to hear about how he’s recreating the beach volleyball scene in Claremont, one he says hasn’t been vibrant since 2017. 

This conversation has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

TSL: How did you get into beach volleyball?

Ulas Ayyilmaz: I’ve been playing beach volleyball for 10 years now. I’ve spent literally every summer since 2013 at my family’s beach house, playing beach volleyball in this very famous beach volleyball café. All the famous beach volleyball players would come there, and we would all look up to them. I grew up looking up to that. And in high school as well, I played volleyball. 

 My first semester, I played volleyball in the men’s volleyball 5C club team. But, because I have a health problem that prevents me from taking part in strenuous activities, I had to step out of it. That’s why I decided on proposing the beach volleyball club, which is going to be very low-stakes but will still allow me to play volleyball. 

TSL: What does the beach volleyball community in Claremont mean to you?

UA: The first volleyball community I was introduced to here was the men’s volleyball team, and it was such a supportive environment. Everyone took care of each other. Everyone valued each other.

Because we have so many academic things going on that are stressful, having a medium in which you could get it all out through doing sports was very helpful for my mental health — and doing it with people that I enjoyed spending time with was way better. 

Also, when I was a sophomore — my first time on campus — I spent a lot of nights playing beach volleyball with random people that I didn’t know. When the new freshmen this year came to campus, I also saw a lot of them playing beach volleyball and making friends over volleyball. 

Volleyball, especially on Walker Beach, is a bonding activity for people who just arrived for their first weeks in college. That means a lot to me, and I want to make this something that goes on consistently.

TSL: What will the club be like? 

UA: We’re only going to be playing within ourselves because I don’t want this to be a competitive environment. I want this to be an environment in which people who are aspiring to learn volleyball can actually learn how to pass and how to be better. We can be competitive among ourselves, but the main purpose is to grow, rather than to earn points or whatever. 

The teams are going to be different each game. In terms of structure, first, we’ll do warm-ups for 10 minutes. Then we separate into groups of six or eight and pass the ball to each other. And I and my co-leaders will walk among them and show people how to pass better if we think they need help. For the last hour and a half, we’ll make little scrimmages, playing six-versus-six on the field.  

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