Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Mike O’Hara: A Remarkable Journey in Volleyball and Beyond

Mike O'Hara

They like to call the Manhattan Beach Open the Wimbledon of beach volleyball. And for good reason. It’s a prestigious event that brings together the best in the sport. One name that stands out in the history of the Manhattan Beach Open is Mike O’Hara. He was a force to be reckoned with, winning the tournament five times in a row, including the inaugural open in 1960. But Mike’s story goes beyond his victories on the sand. Let’s take a closer look at the remarkable journey of Mike O’Hara.

From Texas to California

Born in Texas, Mike moved to California when he was just a kid. Growing up near the beach, he developed a love for the ocean and all the sports it had to offer. In his early years, Mike experienced a growth spurt that took him from being 4 feet, 10 inches tall in tenth grade to 6 feet, 4 inches by the time he got to college. It was at UCLA where Mike’s sporting journey took an unexpected turn.

Discovering Volleyball

At UCLA, Mike’s initial interest was in basketball. However, fate had something else in store for him. The coach at the time, John Wooden, saw potential in Mike but couldn’t offer him a spot on the basketball team due to eligibility restrictions. This led Mike to discover volleyball, a sport that would become his true passion. He describes it as finding a magic waterfall after a lifetime in the desert. Mike’s talent and love for the game quickly became evident.

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From College to International Success

In 1953, Mike and his Delta Tau Delta fraternity team convinced the UCLA athletic director to let them represent the university at the national collegiate volleyball championships. They went on to win the championship and brought the trophy back to Westwood, strapping it to the roof of their car for the journey. This achievement led to men’s volleyball becoming a varsity sport at UCLA.

Mike’s success didn’t stop there. He went on to play for the U.S. national team, winning a gold medal at the 1959 Pan American Games and representing his country at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where volleyball made its first appearance. Mike’s versatility was evident in both indoor and beach volleyball, where he dominated alongside partner Mike Bright at Manhattan Beach.

Contributions to the Sport

Mike’s impact on volleyball goes beyond his playing career. He helped organize the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, playing a crucial role in bringing the sport to the global stage. He also played a part in the development of the American Basketball Association, the World Hockey Association, and professional track. One of his notable contributions was the introduction of the rally scoring system, which has become a fundamental aspect of volleyball worldwide.

A Life of Learning and Sharing

In addition to his achievements in volleyball, Mike has led a life of continuous learning and giving back. He authored books on topics ranging from volleyball to prostate cancer, sharing his knowledge and experiences with others. His book, “Volleyball: Fastest Growing Sport in the World!” serves as a comprehensive guide to the sport and highlights its potential as a rival to soccer. Mike’s resilience in the face of his own health challenges is inspiring, and he approaches life with a “what’s next?” attitude.

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Can I learn volleyball from Mike’s book?

Absolutely! Mike’s book, “Volleyball: Fastest Growing Sport in the World!” is a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning the sport. It covers the basics and provides insights from Mike’s extensive experience in the game.

How can I get involved in the sport of volleyball?

If you’re interested in getting involved in volleyball, there are many avenues to explore. You can join local leagues, sign up for classes or clinics, or even start your own volleyball group with friends. Visit Alpinetgheep for more information and resources to get started.


Mike O’Hara’s journey in volleyball and life is a testament to the power of passion, resilience, and continuous learning. From his dominance on the beach courts to his contributions to the sport’s development and his inspiring battle with prostate cancer, Mike’s story is one of triumph over challenges. He embodies the spirit of the game and serves as an inspiration to all those who seek to follow their passion and make a difference in the world.