FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (July 27, 2013) – Kyle Cohan, standing 4-10, does not think much about competing against volleyball players who are three years older and a whole lot taller. Rather, the 13-year-old and the rest of his USA Future Select A1 teammates embraced the opportunity be the first-ever Future Select Team to compete at the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships (HPC) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“It was a little intimidating playing here at first,” Cohan said after his team defeated Team Ohio Valley Region HP Select on Saturday. “All the other players are at least five inches taller than me, if not more than a foot. But once you get in the mode of playing the game, it’s just like playing anyone else.”
Like any team, USA Future Select A1 is competing for victories, but its head coach Mike Zarate said the team is measuring success in development rather than the won-lost column.
“Our number-one goal here is not to win matches, but to develop players,” Zarate said. “They are obviously playing against older boys, so we have been putting an emphasis on mental toughness. We’ve been using different lineups and they are doing a really good job with the mix.”
In addition to competing against older and typically bigger players, the majority of the USA Future Select Teams have also been challenged to play on a men’s net for the first time.
“Future Select Teams compete on a women’s (height) net,” Zarate said. “So, for over half of the players on the team, this is the first time they have competed on a men’s net and they have adjusted incredibly well.”
“Even though we lost our first two matches in five, they were really close and we were able to be a really competitive team,” Garcia said. “Even with the losses, it was still a success because now the players can think back on what they need to learn to become better players mentally.”
These players have also enjoyed the challenges encountered in this tournament because they have been able to improve their level of play and surprising many people, including themselves.
“I really like the atmosphere of the older guys that we get to play against,” Cohan said. “We have been in a lot of close games that we have to work through and it was worth it in the end.”
Eli Gabriel Irizarry, a setter for the USA Future Select Team, also noted a difference in the level of competition among his team while playing at the HPC.
“I knew we were the underdogs because we are 13 and 14 years old,” Eli said. “Playing up in divisions also brings your level of the game up. We started fighting and fighting and we got better.”
As young athletes, USA Future Select A1 players have the opportunity to continue developing and perhaps be the future of USA Volleyball.
“I would love to keep making this program and move on up in the USA Volleyball pyramid,” Cohan said.