Update: After a lengthy battle with Lyme Disease, Mike Russell peacefully passed away in his home on October 31, 2019. “We lost a close member of our Volleyball Beach family. RIP Mike Russell. We will miss you greatly.” – Howard Barewin
Who is Mike Russell? According to Volleyball Beach proprietor Howard Barewin, “Mike Russell is a longtime player and Volleyball Beach fan – and our very own ‘Weather Guru’! When we get it right, it’s all Mike. When we get it wrong, it is all me!”
Mike first got involved with Volleyball Beach back in 1989 when he and other members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce put together a team at Volleyball Beach. Before then, Mike said he didn’t have much concrete knowledge of sand volleyball and all that comes with it. Almost 30 years later, it’s safe to say that once Mike started he was hooked!
Mike’s interest in weather and sand volleyball collided about five years after he started playing at Volleyball Beach. When arriving for a game he found all remaining night sessions had been cancelled because of approaching thunderstorms. Mike, a software engineer, was curious and decided to take a look at the weather radar himself. Studying the radar, Mike predicted the storms would be out of the area in time for 7:15 games to be played. It turns out Mike was absolutely correct!
Kansas City’s unpredictable weather had long made deciding to play or cancel an evening’s games a tricky proposition. With a prognosticator like Mike around, it didn’t take the former Volleyball Beach owner long to ask Mike if he wouldn’t mind helping make the call on weather cancellations on a regular basis. Mike said he’d be happy to lend a hand. Now, over twenty years – and one owner – later, Volleyball Beach is still proud to have the services of Kansas City’s one and only outdoor volleyball weather guru!
Mike has always had an interest in the weather. In fact, being a weather forecaster was one of his top three career choices growing up! Ultimately, Mike chose a career with Garmin as a software engineer, but he never stopped pursuing his love of predicting the weather. Over time, he learned weather behaviors by monitoring the metro area with the use of weather models, radar and satellite – online tools all available to the public through the National Weather Service.
“No one can tell you exactly what’s going to happen in the next two or three hours in real dynamic weather situations, but you can get to better than an 80% accuracy level which is still useful,” Mike says.
Monitoring and making a call on the weather is a very time-sensitive endeavor. Mike said he and Howard communicate throughout the day, checking weather models and the radar hourly. According to Mike, “Howard is very intent on not having people show up when we’re going to have a weather problem.”
By the time 4:00 pm rolls around, the two can come to an “executive decision” on whether the games will be cancelled or playable for the night.
Although weather can be unreliable, Volleyball Beach is extremely thankful to have the extremely reliable Mike Russell on our side! Thanks to Mike, thousands of extra matches have been played over the years that otherwise would have been cancelled and, on countless other nights, hundreds of players avoided the trip to Martin City only to be met with a torrent of inclement weather.
So, the next time the sun bursts through dark clouds and the perfect night for sand volleyball emerges, after the game, take a moment and have a toast to Mike. Thanks to him, the game is on!
From everyone here at Volleyball Beach, thank you for all that you do, Mike!