Volleyball has always been a family affair for the Kaplon-Parkers. My parents met on a court at Vanderbilt University and passed a love for the game along to my older sister and me. My sister then taught me how to play tenacious, determined defense by drilling downballs my way when we would “pepper” in our backyard. In college, she and I had a single, glorious opportunity to play against each other. We found ourselves lined up across the net: she, a setter, and me an outside. My team emerged with the victory in a back-and-forth five-game match, but who’s keeping track?
Mine certainly isn’t the only family with volleyball flowing through its veins. Brian Cook, a member of the national runner-up Stanford men’s team, has a sister, Karissa, who attends Hawaii and was a national runner-up herself in the AVCA Collegiate Sand Championships pairs tournament. Sara Hughes of USC added her sand championship pairs title to the family’s growing collection, which includes brother Connor’s two championships as an outside for UC Irvine. Brothers Aaron and Peter Russell have battled together for three seasons at Penn State while father-son duo Carl and Chris McGown pair up to coach the BYU men’s team.
While in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, experiencing Emerald Coast Volleyball Week in late April, I witnessed the formation of a brand new volleyball family. During the captain’s meeting that kicked off the Fudpucker 4-Player tournament, Mars Stevenson of Atlanta proposed to his girlfriend Jennifer Waldrup, and luckily for him, she said yes. Stevenson told me he wanted to ask her at the tournament so their mutual volleyball friends could experience the special day with them. That group of volleyball friends then grew as the weekend went on and people they had never met went out of their way to offer congratulations.
“It’s just one big family,” Stanford head coach John Kosty said of men’s college volleyball at a press conference following the men’s DI-II national semifinals in Chicago. “The only time it’s not a family is when the referee blows the first whistle and competition is on.”
I would argue that it isn’t just the men’s college community that has built such a familial bond. As I communicate with and meet volleyballers from around the country and world, I am constantly reminded that the entire volleyball community functions as a global family unit. I am so thankful for my volleyball family, both blood-related and symbolic, and look forward to forming relationships with members of this unique group I have yet to meet.
Megan Kaplon, Associate Editor
Originally published in July 2014