Keith Sinke’s objective is to make amateur athletes feel like pros playing at a professional facility.
Volleyball players got that experience this summer at Mile High Courts, north of Tillsonburg on Airport Road.
The weekly competitive league finished its season Sept. 15 playing for the Mile High Cup. Sinke sourced out parts for the inaugural trophy and assembled it for championship night.
“We’ve just got to make do with things we find, but we try to make a really cool environment with the music and the speeches and the community. It’s just supposed to be fun,” he said.
Outdoor lighting even makes it possible to play night games. They even have bleachers.
Sinke and his wife Ellen have four children and they do much of the work at Mile High Courts, cleaning the courts, doing the lines, cleaning washrooms.
“They’re out here all the time playing – they were out here four times a week,” said Sinke. “There’s a group of (Tillsonburg area) kids that come out almost every night, maybe five to 10 kids that I see regularly.”
Mile High Courts has been almost 12 years in the making.
“It started off small with just two courts,” said Sinke. “We would have birthday parties, family functions, church picnics and that kind of stuff, and it was just for fun, something for people to do. We also had a couple buck and doe volleyball tournaments here.”
Eventually they found two courts were not enough, so they added a third.
“After the third one went in we had a house fire and we needed fill for around the house,” he said. “So we took the dirt from here and we put the fourth sand court in – that would have been five years ago. Then this past year we put in this fifth court – the artificial turf came out of an old stadium.
“Everything is second-hand, refurbished and repurposed. Nothing has been purchased brand new except for the sand. The sand came from Paton Brothers.”
Sinke, who grew up in the Ingersoll area, said it’s been a dream of his since he was a teenager.
“When I was 19 my dad said, ‘When you get your own place you can build your own volleyball courts.’
“Volleyball was really good for me at Seneca College. I played two years OCAA there and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it and made a lot of good connections. We did everything together, the 12 of us, and two years of college flew by. Being in Toronto didn’t feel like Toronto.
“So for me volleyball has always been a community thing and that’s what I try to bring here. I really try to bring that environment with everything we’ve put on here.”
Now age 44, Sinke has one of the best beach volleyball facilities in the area.
“We had a two-versus-two tournament on Friday (Sept. 10) with 26 high school teams, and two of the teams (four players) came from Hamilton. They were good – by far the best volleyball I’ve seen here.”
Playoffs for the Mile High Courts summer league, which featured competitive nights and weekly non-competitive pickup games, were held Sept. 11.
“This was the first year for our league, and that’s only because of COVID. Jared (Pettman) has been huge – Jared is the one who got excited about it and when he gets excited… I believed in it – and built it – but I didn’t know how to network it. Jared came in and said, ‘I know people who want to play this.’
On Thursdays Mile High Courts has drop-in nights.
“It’s just for them to come out and have fun. I make the teams up as people show up. It’s just to get to know people, so if you bring a friend you can play with your friend all night, but you also get to meet all these new people. The biggest night we had about 65 people and all five courts were full. It was a good time.”
Sinke is considering expanding into other sports at some point in the future. Beach soccer, for example. Or dodgeball. Maybe even handball.
“Right now my kids are doing it as a casual thing. But in my mind I’m thinking about where the potential is and I’ve thought about running a soccer league or even dodgeball. We could easily do that. I think the future is we’re maybe going to make it a business and then see…”
Thursday casual drop-in volleyball will continue at Mile High Courts as long as weather allows it, he said. Wednesday nights will be semi-competitive drop-ins for people who played in the league.
“Nothing organized, it’s just going to be for fun. They played last year until the end of October.”