It was an unlikely meeting between the Epic 14 club volleyball team and the Brigham Young University men’s volleyball team, but one thing brought them together: food. The Epic team contacted the coaching staff of BYU to extend an invitation to host them for dinner the night before they played UCSD. To everyone’s surprise and delight, the BYU team accepted the invitation and team moms quickly went to work figuring out how to feed the party of 20 athletes and staff.
One of the positive aspects of the night was watching the younger players meet and interact with the college athletes from BYU. It was clear that the younger athletes looked up to these older guys and hope to be just like them some day. They got to get autographs, take pictures, and ask questions. For these young athletes, positive interactions like this team dinner can be a life-changing experience.
After watching the match between BYU and UCSD on Saturday, Feb. 11 at Rimac Arena, 13-year-old middle blocker Kaden Tollstrup said, “I want to play just like Futi and Russ.” He was referring to 6-foot-8-inch senior middle blocker, Futi Tavana and 6-foot7-inch junior middle blocker, Russ Lavaja.
Besides the chance to interact and meet these college athletes, this event was a reminder that there are positive role models out there for young kids. It seems that there is a lot of negative press regarding athletes who misbehave and abuse their influence as athletes. However, there is a lot of positive interaction going on if you look for it.
BYU consistently packs the Smith Field House with a seating capacity of 5,000. I asked assistant BYU men’s volleyball coach, Christ McGown, about the concept of role-models and how he prepares his team to not only be great performers, but to also display good character and sportsmanship. He said, “We start when they come on their recruiting trip. We make sure our recruits know what we expect of their performance and their behavior. Then when the season begins, we ask our players to conduct themselves with good character and sportsmanship during practice and that carries over into the game.”
The Epic 14 volleyball team got to see firsthand how these college players performed and conducted themselves. Hopefully, one day these young players will be the older college players and remember that they are role models and all eyes are on them now.