Boys volleyball trying to grow out of club status

Published: Tuesday, July 8 2008 12:06 a.m. MDT

SANDY — When Taylor Mattson's friend approached him about playing for Taylorsville's volleyball team, he could only laugh.

"I didn't even know we had a boys volleyball team," said the 17-year-old who will be a senior this fall. Taylorsville High, in fact, does not have a sanctioned volleyball team, but the community has a club team that represents the high school's athletes. It's a league somewhere in between a recreational league and a private club team.

Mattson, a football wide receiver and safety for the Warriors' football team, decided to go to a practice with his buddy, and after a only couple of hours, he was sold on the sport.

"He just asked me to come to tryouts," Mattson said. "He said, 'If you don't like it you don't have to come back.' I had a lot of fun."

A couple of months after that, Mattson tried out for Twin Peaks, probably the oldest club team for boys in Utah. Mattson's coach, Derek Larsen's father Barry, started the club more than 15 years ago. Derek and his two brothers played for Twin Peaks, a team that is now competing in the 17 Club division of the 2008 USA Boys Volleyball Junior Olympic Tournament at the South Towne Expo Center through Wednesday.

Derek Larsen, who also played in college, said he coaches boys because he loves the men's volleyball game.

"It's unfortunate there aren't more opportunities," he said. "I love this sport. I love coaching guys specifically. I love the sheer power of the men's game."

Mattson, a die-hard football fanatic, said he has grown to appreciate the athleticism required to play volleyball. He is, at times, overwhelmed by what he sees in the national tournament.

"It's crazy to see all the teams," he said. "But I love playing volleyball. It's way fun. I wish I would have gotten into it earlier."

That's a sentiment coach Larsen hears a lot.

"The main problem is that (young men) believe they can go to (college) for something else, some other sport," Larsen said. "Every year we get five or six kids who are going to be seniors who realize they can't make it to college for those other sports."

He said some hope to get volleyball scholarships, but the majority just want to give the sport a try. Twin Peaks has survived, despite a lot of public support, on the good experience of its players.

"We've never recruited boys," Larsen said. "Every boy who has come out has come because a friend had a good experience and talked them into playing."

Larsen said Mattson picked up the skills very quickly, which helped his teammates out in the tournament this week.

"The good thing about Taylor is that he's an athlete," Larsen said. "He knows how his body works and that makes him pretty easy to teach."

He said teaching older boys the basics of volleyball can be frustrating, but with Taylor "it's been pretty fun. It can be rough with some kids."

Mattson said his football coach was happy to have him playing volleyball.

"He really encourages us to play other sports," he said. "He said it makes us better athletes."

Mattson's parents were surprised when their football-loving son said he was going to take up volleyball last winter.

"I was really surprised," said his father, Tim. "He has zero experienced. I don't think he'd ever even touched a ball."

Both his parents understand the game a little and while his father said he's not sure it beats a football game for excitement, it's a very enjoyable game to watch.

"It's entertaining," he said. "It's a lot different from football. In football, you wait all week for that one game. This is fun. I'd like to see it in high schools. I really like it."


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com