Covered in sweat, there were high fives and smiles all around at the evening's end. It was, after all, what they came for - exercise and a good time playing co-ed volleyball.
For some 20 years, co-ed volleyball has been part of the Sikeston Public School's adult education program.
Marvie Beaudean takes charge each Monday as players gather at 7 p.m. in the Sikeston High School girls gym. Beaudean unlocks the door, gathers the nets and balls, collects each participants' $2 playing fee and divides the teams.
She has watched the sport grow in popularity, then seen a dip in players' interest. Today, more players are finding their way back to the court.
Beaudean points out players range in age. At 70, Beaudean admitted to being the senior player and perhaps the most experienced. Growing up in Puxico, she played volleyball and has kept at the sport through women's leagues and now co-ed play.
The youngest players welcomed on the court are teenagers although sitting around the edges are some younger wannabe players watching their parents.
As for the abilities, Beaudean explained, the players are equally far-ranging. "We have some that are pretty good, some real good and some not too good," said. She even has taught a few how to play and watched their skills develop as they came to the weekly gatherings.
Loosely organized, Beaudean begins the evening dividing up the men into teams - "You're a one, two, three, four," she said pointing at each of the players, then the women are divided and groups separate to face one another across the nets dividing the gym. The numbers making up the teams vary, depending how many have arrived to play.
While the teams do keep score, sticklers for the rules should find their own game.
"We go by most of the rules but sometimes they can lift it and get by with it," she said. Although high school rules are changing, they have kept some of the old rules and blended them with the new, Beaudean acknowledged.
The numbers and the skills vary, but the enthusiasm doesn't.
Mildred Wilson warned some of the men can spike the ball pretty hard. "They get very competitive but most of the guys try not to hit too hard to the women," she said. And despite a few injuries, the 65-year-old Wilson said it is fun and a way for her to stay active and "you get a good bunch of people to play with."
Samantha Reynolds said exercise brought her out on a recent Monday night. She was accompanied by high school sophomore Patience Freeland, who described the play for her as a learning experience.
Exercise and experience aren't the only benefits.
Joe Hester met his wife, Tina, playing co-ed volleyball. Six years later they continue to come weekly for the games. "Marvie usually puts us on the same team; she knows I like to set for him," said Mrs. Hester with a nod to her husband.
Even when they play across the net from one another Hester said "it is a really good time." Mrs. Hester added they have made a lot of friends through co-ed volleyball.
There are other pluses to the program, too. Because it is a pay-when-you-play program, Mrs. Hester said participants aren't locked into a schedule and aren't out any money if they miss an evening.
You don't have to worry about a team, either, she pointed out. "They put the teams together, so there are all skill levels on the team. Everyone is welcome. No one is going to get turned down."
As the attendance grows, Beaudean said there is talk about adding a second night of play. For right now though, it will continue on Mondays through the school year.
"I do wish more people would come out and enjoy this with us. I've been coming all these years and though sometimes I think about quitting then I realize that right now I'm just enjoying it too much," she said.
Turning to watch two of the players battle for the ball only to end up laughing as both missed, Beaudean laughed with them and added, "And for $2 this is pretty cheap entertainment for two hours."