Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Positive Energy Abounds at Fort Valley State University

It was a day filled with excitement and energy at Fort Valley State University (FVSU) on March 26th, as their men’s volleyball team faced off against the formidable UCLA, the number one ranked team in men’s collegiate volleyball. Despite UCLA’s 3-0 victory, the Wildcats emerged from the match with a renewed sense of purpose as they strive to build a program from the ground up.

According to Larry Wrather, head coach of both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams at FVSU, the presence of a prestigious team like UCLA on their campus brought recognition and shed a spotlight on Fort Valley State University. It allowed their players to witness firsthand what it takes to be a part of a nationally ranked team and what it means to train like the best in the nation.

Prior to the match, UCLA’s head coach John Speraw, who also coaches the U.S. Men’s National Team, and his players held a joint practice with the Wildcats. They also conducted a volleyball serve/pass clinic and a Q&A session for a group of kids from Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The day was further enriched by a shared lunch, where the UCLA players shared their experiences and insights.

For Fort Valley freshman opposite Jaxon Hicks, the visit from the UCLA team was an incredibly positive experience. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to interact with the UCLA players, practice with them, and gain an understanding of their approach to the game.

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The collaboration between UCLA and FVSU goes beyond just an exciting volleyball match. Coach Speraw is the founder of First Point Volleyball, an organization that, along with USA Volleyball, has allocated $1 million in 2019 to support the establishment of men’s volleyball programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). FVSU is one of the beneficiaries of this initiative, along with Morehouse College.

Wrather, who is in his second season as the head coach of the women’s and men’s volleyball programs at FVSU, has taken on the challenge of not only rebuilding the women’s team but also establishing a men’s team. His vision is to make the sport more accessible and inclusive for a diverse range of individuals. Wrather, who played volleyball as a young man of color, wants to inspire the next generation of young men to continue playing the sport.

Building a robust roster in a short period has been a significant undertaking for Wrather. Within four months, he recruited 13 players, with all but one hailing from the United States. This deliberate focus on American talent aims to inspire and promote the growth of volleyball within the country.

Jaxon Hicks, who hails from Illinois, discovered his passion for volleyball in middle school. Recognizing his potential, he pursued the sport further in high school. When he learned about the HBCUs starting men’s volleyball programs, he connected with Wrather and made the decision to join FVSU.

The goal of Wrather’s coaching approach extends beyond the success of the program and individual players. He aims to leave a lasting legacy within the volleyball community as a whole. By cultivating a new generation of players, he hopes to build the sport from its grassroots. The players at FVSU are enthusiastic about the opportunity to be part of this endeavor and to establish their own unique identity within the sport.

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The commitment to building a strong program at FVSU is a family affair for Wrather. His father, Edward Wrather, serves as the assistant coach, and his longtime friend Joe Kelley is a graduate assistant coach. Wrather’s wife, Hannah, a former Division I volleyball player, plays a vital role in planning team schedules and itineraries.

As the team progresses through the school year, Wrather has witnessed their growth both on and off the court. Through activities such as helping other students move in during move-in week and participating in team-building exercises, the team has bonded and grown closer. This camaraderie translates into a stronger performance on the volleyball court.

The support for the men’s volleyball team at Fort Valley State on campus has been heartwarming. People have expressed their enjoyment of the matches and how unexpectedly fun men’s volleyball can be. This positive response not only adds pressure but also fuels the team’s determination to fight harder and build a successful program.

To stay updated on Fort Valley State volleyball, follow them on Instagram and Twitter. For more inspiring stories about HBCUs that received support from the USAV/First Point grant, listen to the USA Volleyball Show episodes featuring Central State and Kentucky State and read our stories on Morehouse College and Benedict College.

FAQs

How did the men’s volleyball team at Fort Valley State University fare against UCLA?

Despite their 3-0 loss against UCLA, the men’s volleyball team at Fort Valley State University (FVSU) emerged from the match with a renewed sense of purpose. The experience of playing against a top-ranked team allowed them to see firsthand what it takes to be trained and compete at the highest level in the nation.

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What initiatives are fostering the growth of men’s volleyball programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs)?

UCLA’s head coach, John Speraw, along with USA Volleyball and First Point Volleyball, allocated $1 million in 2019 to support the establishment of men’s volleyball programs at HBCUs. Fort Valley State University (FVSU) is one of the schools benefiting from this initiative, along with Morehouse College.

What is the vision of Fort Valley State University’s head coach, Larry Wrather?

Larry Wrather, the head coach of the women’s and men’s volleyball programs at FVSU, aims to make volleyball more accessible and inclusive for a diverse range of participants. As a young man of color who played volleyball, he wants to inspire the next generation and create opportunities for them to continue playing the sport.

Summary

The men’s volleyball team at Fort Valley State University (FVSU) faced off against the number one ranked UCLA team, garnering recognition and a brighter spotlight for the university. Despite the 3-0 loss, the experience provided valuable insights for the Wildcats as they strive to build a program from scratch. Coach Larry Wrather’s vision extends beyond the success of the program, focusing on inspiring and promoting the growth of volleyball. Collaborations with UCLA and initiatives supporting HBCUs contribute to this mission. The support received by the team on campus has been heartwarming, and the players are motivated to fight harder and build a successful program. Stay updated on FVSU volleyball through their social media channels.