Play from the Heart

Sophomore Eli Laurent expresses his love for playing men’s volleyball

Bianca Smith, Staff Writer

     Before sophomore Eli Laurent starts any volleyball match he and his teammate do a handshake and then the whole team high-fives each other. Laurent subconsciously wipes the bottom of his shoes so he can have more traction before every play.

     Laurent gets questioned for playing volleyball because it’s predominantly a girls’ sport.

     He was inspired to play volleyball by his mother who played in college and currently coaches. Once he started playing, he was in love.

     “I have had a special place in my heart for volleyball,” Laurent said.  “Playing makes me feel really good because I’m a very competitive person all around. I like being able to compete.”

     He currently plays for the MAVS, a highly competitive boys’ and girls’ volleyball club in Olathe. Laurent’s team is the reigning boys’ U-16 national volleyball champions.

     The team travels to Chicago as well as to St. Louis every year. The MAVS rarely play in the Kansas City area due to the lack of boys’ volleyball teams here.

     MAVS is the only boys’ volleyball club in Johnson County, but a few competitive teams can be found on the Missouri side. Boys’ volleyball is starting to grow in this area but hasn’t taken off yet.

     Practices are fun for Laurent because he and his teammates joke around a lot.

     “We’ll do stupid stuff throughout and we all just laugh and move on, ” Laurent said. “We still get better.”

     Laurent practices twice every week and works out four to five times each week.

     “ speed and agility classes at my gym and then the other two, I do one-on-one with my personal trainer,” Laurent said.

     Laurent tries to eat healthy foods and takes any opportunity to improve as a volleyball player.

     He loves competing and has fun doing it. But prior to every competition, he doesn’t eat or drink anything. Laurent thinks it makes him play better. But when he’s at training camp he forces himself to eat so he can practice for the long training blocks.

     “I go out and I play on an empty tank,” Laurent said.

     After a loss, Laurent reflects on the game and eventually realizes that every team can be beaten. It’s not the end of the world if they lose.

     He says that when they play against less skilled teams, it’s fun to get easy hits and win, but he also enjoys a close game against a good team. After Laurent has had a good performance, he tries to realize what he did well and repeat the same process.

     Laurent respects his coach, Scott Guerrero, and looks up to him. Guerrero, Laurent thinks, has his best interests at heart.

     “He definitely pushes us to be the best that we can be by making us compete for spots,” Laurent said. Last summer, Laurent’s team won a national championship in Dallas. It was the very first time a team from this area has ever won.

     “I was in awe for a little bit,” Laurent said.

     Laurent was also on the national team. He made the top training program in the country and got the opportunity to wear a USA jersey. It doesn’t cost anything to play on the national team, but it does take a lot of time.

     Laurent participated in five days of training in Florida and then played in a five-day international tournament.

     He’s been training constantly to be able to get back on the national team. This year he was invited to a pre-tryout and he will receive the results in April. Laurent competed against some of his fellow MAVS for a spot on the national team.

     “There’s definitely some good competition in my class, which makes it difficult, ” Laurent said. “I’m still gonna try my hardest.”

     After high school, Laurent would love to play at the next level.

     “My dream is to play in college, so I am preparing now to give myself the best chance,” Laurent said.

     Laurent’s dream colleges are the University of Hawai’i or UCLA. Each offers men’s volleyball. Several Midwestern state colleges offer men’s volleyball including Illinois, Ohio and Indiana.

     If Laurent can play professionally he says he will continue playing. But, he wants to finish college first then play professionally overseas.

     If Laurent wants to continue beyond college, Europe offers professional men’s volleyball as well. Laurent says he is open to playing overseas. Laurent’s coach currently plays for Nordenskov UIF Elite Volley in Denmark.

     Laurent can’t get recruited yet due to the NCAA regulations that say sophomores aren’t allowed to talk to collegiate coaches. He is, however, allowed to email the coaches and tell them where he is playing so they can come and watch. Laurent has created a highlight video and sends prospective coaches raw footage of him playing so the coaches will notice him.

     Because Northwest doesn’t have a boys’ volleyball team, Laurent decided to be the manager for the girls’ varsity volleyball team. He helps get the waters and he takes stats on the bench. Sometimes he helps out in practice.

     Laurent likes being the manager because he gets to spend a lot of time with his friends doing what he loves. He’s made some of his best friends managing.