COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 31, 2012)- For many of the athletes on the 2012 U.S. Men’s Junior National Volleyball Team (MJNT) competing at the NORCECA Men’s Junior (U-21) Continental Championship being held in Colorado Springs, Colo., volleyball is more than just a sport. It is a family affair.
The Christenson family traveled from Honolulu, Hawaii to support Micah Christenson (Honolulu), a setter and team captain on the MJNT. Christenson’s volleyball success was one that started because of his family. His mother, Charlene, won three national championships with the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
“He always loved sports,” Charlene said. “He grew up around volleyball and he loves the competition. He just thrives off of it really.”
As Christenson began to recognize his potential he got involved with the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline.
“Playing in the pipeline was when we realized he could take this somewhere,” Charlene said. “Just playing in the international competitions and making the teams. He loved it.”
Christenson still had his fan base even when playing overseas. His family made the trek to Italy and Brazil to watch him compete for the USA. Now that he has started his collegiate career at the University of Southern California they continue to stay involved.
“Even if we can’t make it to games we are tuned in somehow,” Charlene said. “Livestreaming is great. We are either watching the matches or listening in. He is also great about getting in touch with us after games. He and his dad will talk on the phone.”
As Christenson makes a name for himself on his journey to success in the volleyball world his parents have enjoyed the opportunities they have experienced as a result.
“We have loved having the opportunity to travel and go to other countries,” Charlene said. “But the best part of this journey for us has been seeing him reach his goals, seeing him work and improve and get himself to get to this level. Through this process he has grown into an adult. That has been the most rewarding part of this journey for us as his family.”
Scott Rhein, MJNT outside hitter, has also traveled through volleyball with his family. Rhein’s family got into the sport when he was young. They went to the gym every Friday night to play. Before long Rhein turned into a gym rat. A club coach saw him playing in a rec league one night and invited him to join the team. From there his career took off and his family has been with him every step.
“We do this as a family,” his mother, Carol Green, said. “He has two siblings here at the NORCEA event watching, and it has been really fun for us being here with him.”
Rhein makes sure he returns the favor.
“He couldn’t imagine missing a sibling's match,” Green said. “He would fundraise the $300.00 for the plane ticket to go watch his sister’s collegiate matches. If he couldn’t do that he would watch online.”
As the Rhein family stays involved with Scott’s aspiring career, they have enjoyed the bonds forged along the way.
“We have loved meeting everyone,” Green said. “Not just people on his USA teams, but those from other countries as well. It is fun staying in touch and knowing so many people through this.”
Howard and Cheryl Petty, parents of MJNT outside hitter Greg Petty, have also played an active role in their son’s career.
“He started playing after going to his brothers High Performance tryout,” Howard said. “Greg was young and hadn’t played for a team. We were told that the tryout for the younger kids was the next day. He tried out as a middle because he was tall and we didn’t know what position he was. He made the team and after that his career took off.”
As Greg’s career took off he found himself competing at Lewis University in Illinois alongside his brother Jay. Lewis is close to home for the Pettys and they are at almost every home game cheering on their sons.
“It has been special to see them play together,” Cheryl said. “Seeing him [Greg] and his brother grow closer through the experience has been neat.”
The Petty parents are also proud of the growth they have seen in their son by playing volleyball.
“We are so proud of the appreciation he has for the game,” Cheryl said. “We are especially proud of the appreciation he has for not only the teams he plays with but also the teams he plays against. It has been fun seeing him grow up. In interviews with him I sometimes think ‘My kid said that?’ and am so proud.”
Matt West, a setter on the MJNT, also grew up in a volleyball family. His mother, Raquel, played on the Peruvian National Volleyball Team as well as at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Having so much volleyball knowledge herself, she knew her son could make a career of the sport.
“When he was 13 he was extremely athletic,” Raquel said, “I knew he could make the national team someday. But it was always up to him. He played soccer and baseball too. We never forced him into it. Playing volleyball had to be his choice.”
Once West made the choice, his parents supported him and coached him on his way to volleyball greatness.
“We were his coaches,” Raquel said. “We started a club with a boys’ program so he could play. He always played up at the 18s level, even when he was 13.”
Now that West has taken the next step in his career and is playing at Pepperdine University, his parents still try to stay involved.
“We got to see him play three times in college,” Raquel said. “It is hard to make the matches since we still run the club. Through this all, it has been fun to see him grow as a person and a player.”
Knowing first-hand what playing for your country can feel like, Raquel is proud of the opportunities her son has earned with hard work and dedication.
“For me I always had so much fun with the national team,” Raquel said. “As he strives to achieve that goal, he has had a blast so far. We are so proud of him and regardless, he knows that whatever he does we support him.”
2012 NORCECA Men's Junior Continental Championship Schedule
Aug. 27: Mexico def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-7, 25-10, 25-15 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 27: United States def. Honduras 25-12, 25-12, 25-16 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Mexico def. Honduras 25-15, 26-24, 25-14 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: United States def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-8, 25-8, 25-9 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Honduras def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-17, 25-11, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: United States def. Mexico 25-18, 25-18, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 27: Puerto Rico def. Curacao, 27-25, 25-13, 25-23 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 27: Canada def. Guatemala 25-15, 25-13, 25-21 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Canada def. Curacao 25-13, 25-7, 25-22 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 28: Puerto Rico def. Guatemala 25-20, 25-19, 25-20 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Guatemala def. Curacao 25-14, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 29: Canada def. Puerto Rico 25-13, 25-15, 28-30, 25-12 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 30: Puerto Rico def. Honduras 25-16, 25-16, 25-11 (Match 13) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 30: Mexico def. Guatemala 25-23, 25-17, 25-23 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 31: Guatemala def. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 25-12, 25-16, 25-16 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Aug. 31: Honduras def. Curacao 25-27, 25-19, 27-25, 25-19 (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: St. Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Curacao, 11:00 a.m. (7th Place) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Guatemala vs. Honduras, 1:00 p.m. (5th Place) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Mexico vs. Puerto Rico 3:00 p.m. (Bronze) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)
Sept. 1: Canada vs. United States, 5:30 p.m. (Gold) (Live Stats - Final Stats - Photos)