Head coach Joel Walton said one of the issues his team runs into is multiple players wanting to be the voice of the team, but to Walton, there’s one who sticks out.
In the forest of 6 feet, 4 inches; 6 feet, 6 inches all the way up to 6 feet, 8 inches, it’s 5-foot-10-inch senior libero Nick LaVanchy who speaks for the trees.
“Nick, in spite of being surrounded by a bunch of alpha males and guys that want to take the reins, he’s been able to get ahold of them,” Walton said. “The energy he brings is respected by the team, and the guys do a good job of listening to the input he has to offer.”
Walton described LaVanchy as a vocal leader, and he’s been that way since he first joined the team.
Early in LaVanchy’s freshman season at Ball State, Walton said, he was already showing his outspokenness and suggesting ways to make practice drills more effective.
“I’ve always been a leader ever since I can remember,” LaVanchy said. “I’m trying to stay focused and keep everybody’s mind straight, realizing there’s an end goal we’re working for … Volleyball can be a rollercoaster of emotions at times.”
Those emotions, senior outside attacker Matt Szews said, can get to players when they’re out on the court, so it’s nice to have someone like LaVanchy around — someone with a fiery personality who constantly provides positive energy and brings his teammates up.
“He’s a bit of a firecracker,” Szews said. “It definitely helps relax me. I know it helps relax other people on the team too. To have someone who’s always bringing a smile and joking around a little bit … If we’re having a rough match or things aren’t going well, it’s kind of nice to step back a little bit.”
LaVanchy said his energetic, chirpy personality comes naturally and is something his teammates should consider adopting in a sport that requires up to 20 or more hours of work a week.
He related it to an everyday job, saying your life will be a drag if you hate what you’re doing. Inversely, finding the positives will encourage you to perform to the best of your abilities.
“I like to just have fun on the volleyball court,” LaVanchy said. “The biggest thing is keeping the mood light whenever possible because when you get too serious, guys tend to get tense and worry too much about mistakes … It’s all about finding fun in volleyball. Otherwise, you’re just going to go crazy.”
LaVanchy’s animation doesn’t slow down when he comes off the court either. After high-fiving everyone down the line on the bench, he comes right back to the front, leading his teammates in cheers and celebrations. Walton said LaVanchy’s court presence is missed when he goes to the bench, but his leadership on the sideline is just as important.
“I think that’s where his personality and level of energy is very evident because he’s not checking out,” Walton said. “If our bench can give our guys energy, it keeps everyone involved, engaged and moving forward. Nick, for sure — if he’s on the bench, he’s one of the leaders there the same way he would be on the court.”
There are times, LaVanchy said, when he isn’t a nonstop ball of energy. Whether it’s watching film, doing homework or just hanging around the house, he said he needs to find ways to decompress to avoid burnout.
“I like to be pretty easy-going and have fun with a lot of things, but, especially during matches, there’s a switch that turns on,” LaVanchy said. “Being that energetic all the time is just impossible. I got to find time to relax. Just finding a way to turn that switch on and off is essential.”
Szews said he’s relieved when LaVanchy takes a break because being wired up all the time “might be a little exhausting after a while.”
For LaVanchy, he doesn’t see his style changing anytime soon.
“The energy I bring is always pretty positive, and I try to keep it that way,” LaVanchy said. “There’s a fine line between just being stupid and having fun and bringing the energy up of the rest of the guys. I don’t think that’s ever been an issue, and I don’t plan on it being an issue.”