Manny Saenz is a 5' 6" player from Venice Beach, California, via Culver City, California Manny first played on the beach with Doris Corrigan and Billy Lennon, the Lennon Sister's father.
Saenz picked-up on the game of beach volleyball very quickly. He had a natural intensity for the game. That, coupled with his jumping ability, helped him see the full court, which enabled him to shoot perfect shots and sets. Saenz played volleyball every day during the summer months. During the winter months Saenz played on almost every weekend. He was the first player to dominate both beach volleyball and indoor volleyball. Even though Manny was small in stature at five feet six inches, he was enormous in status on the volleyball court. Saenz was a player with extraordinary ability, and he radiated authority on and off the court. He was the player that molded future volleyball legends, Bernie Holtzman and Gene Selznick.
In the mid 1940's, during "pick-up" games on the beach, if Saenz was one of the four players, they would have to flip a coin to see who was going to team-up with him. Saenz was such a great player, that whoever he teamed-up with, became a winner. Manny would say to the others: "Don't I get any say in the matter?" Manny just wanted to play and he would play with anybody!
Saenz won his first major tournament at the 1948 "Pacific Coast Outdoor Volleyball Championships" with Al Harris. Later, he teamed-up with Bernie Holtzman to win just about every match that they played in together, including both pick-up games and tournaments. Saenz went on to win 12 beach tournaments, during a period when there was only one or two tournaments a year.
Manny Saenz was credited for a major change in beach volleyball. The change that he created is the method of determining when teams changed sides, during games, so as to even-out the effects of wind and sun conditions. In the early days teams would change only one time, when the first team reached a score of eight. Saenz, used his influence on the beach, to persuade the other players that teams should change sides when the total of each teams scores were divisible by five, i.e., 5 to 5, 13 to 7, etc.
It should also be mentioned that Saenz was an extremely talented indoor player. His quickness and setting accuracy contributed to a long list of victories and championships at the national level. After Manny retired from competition he was very successful as a coach. Manny was the first to recognize the future potential of women's volleyball and he was the first serious coach of the leading women's team the Santa Monica Mariners, they won six consecutive national titles between 1955 - 1960.
In 1955, Saenz, who performed for five National Championship teams, and who was named eight times as an All-American, was chosen by the Helms Athletic Foundation as the Southern California volleyball "Player of the Half Century."