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Volleyball team connects with fans through community outreach

October 15, 2012
	<p>The women&#8217;s volleyball team cheers after a timeout is called by Illinois on Saturday Oct. 13, 2012 at Jenison Field House. Katie Stiefel/ State News</p>

The women’s volleyball team cheers after a timeout is called by Illinois on Saturday Oct. 13, 2012 at Jenison Field House. Katie Stiefel/ State News

Photo by Katie Stiefel | The State News

To young fans, the athletes of their favorite teams can be larger-than-life icons.

To most people, the athletes who were watched and learned from were just regular people playing a game; they were the idols that fans hoped to meet one day.

For the young fans of the MSU volleyball team, however, that dream of meeting and interacting with their favorite players is one of the easiest goals to accomplish in East Lansing. Not only is meeting the players and scoring autographs thrilling for the fans, but the excitement that comes from the crowd is also something the volleyball team thrives on.

“It gives us a lot of energy on the court,” sophomore libero Kori Moster said. “I know that some people say, ‘Energy should come within the team,’ but any team you talk to will say there is a lot more excitement when there (are) people cheering for you.”

The motivation that comes from the fans is turned into gratitude from the team, as they make their team as accessible as possible to give their young fans an inside look at the Spartan program.

Locker room tours, autograph-signing sessions and pizza parties with the team are just some of the events that fans get to enjoy with the team. Even minutes before the game, the Spartans still keep their fans close to the program, encouraging the youth to come to the court to welcome the starting lineup with high fives during player introductions.

“(The high fives are) really adorable because they are so small and they just stick out their hand with no idea what to expect,” sophomore outside hitter Taylor Galloway said. “It’s just really nice to know that they are looking up to us.”

Having their supporters looking up to them is something that is not a secret, and that interaction with the fans can be surreal to the players.

“One person said, ‘Can I have your autograph? I look up to you so much and love watching you play,’ and that is exciting to hear that you are impacting somebody’s life by playing a game you love,” Moster said.

Giving fans an all-access pass to their favorite players isn’t the only objective the Spartans are concerned about, as they also work on developing the young fans into successful volleyball players.

“We want young kids (to be around the program),” head coach Cathy George said. “We have the best volleyball in the country coming into Jenison Field House every weekend, and for them to learn about the game and be exposed to high level of play, that’s how you learn.”

Starting up volleyball at a young age is crucial to development, and Moster, who started playing in third grade, knows that fact as much as anyone else.

“As a program, we try to reach out to the younger kids and get them involved in volleyball early because that is when you can start to develop, even from a young age,” said Moster.

The players teach their favorite game to the Lansing-area youth year-round, as they have clinics over the summer, every Sunday and even before home games on the miniature court behind the south end bleachers.

It’s always special to see happy, young fans interact with their favorite athletes, but it’s also special to receive lessons firsthand from those iconic players. To some people, this might just be a volleyball game, but to the young fans and players, their interaction with each other is an experience that is larger than life.

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