A Player's Journey From Club Volleyball to USA Volleyball Pipeline

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. - Aaron Russell (Ellicott City, Md) and Parker Brown (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) are taking on their third year within the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline.

Brown and Russell participated in the 2009 USAV Holiday Camp together in Colorado Springs, and are now making their third appearance in the USAV High Performance Championships and competing on the U.S. Boys' Youth A2 Red Team.

The athletes share pride in representing their country through playing for Team USA and have enjoyed their careers thus far within the pipeline.

"It is different than representing a club wearing a club jersey," Russell said. "You get to represent your country and it makes you want to work your very hardest. It's very exciting."

"When you play for USA, it represents all of the commitment you have put into the sport in order to compete to be the best," Brown said. "For USA camps and tournaments, they structure it so that you have to put in all the time to make the team before you actually get the jersey and it feels very rewarding once you get it."

Parker Brown (#19) setting a teammate in a tournament match of the USAV High Performance Championships Russell, who competes for MVP in the Chesapeake Region during the club season, serves primarily as a middle blocker and plays some opposite. Russell's career was highlighted when he was named to the 2010 U.S. Boys' Youth National Team and was given the Best Blocker award while helping the team win silver at the NORCECA Boys' Youth Continental Championship in Mexico. Based on its finish, the team also qualified for the 2011 FIVB World Championship.

Brown, who earned all-tournament honors in the 2010 USA Volleyball Boys' Junior National Championships 16 Open Division while playing for Balboa Bay 16 Quiksilver, is also multi-positional. He plays setter and opposite for the U.S. team and serves as an outside hitter for his high school team, Corona Del Mar. While Brown enjoys playing indoor volleyball, his preference is beach volleyball and hopes to further his career after college in playing on sand internationally.

"Beach works your fundamentals," Brown said. "I am multi-positional because of playing it for so long. In beach, you get to do everything, so it forces you to have depth. That's why I love it. I want to first play for a NCAA Division I college and play beach overseas after."

Kevin Moore, an assistant coach for George Mason University, is the U.S. Boys' Youth A2 Team assistant coach for this year's USA Volleyball High Performance Championships. Moore has had an opportunity to watch both Brown and Russell compete within the High Performance pipeline for the past two years in addition to coaching them this year.

At an event like the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships, Moore says both can still be dominant in their own ways. Brown's versatility is just one characteristic that makes him valuable to an all-star team.

"Parker is a great asset to a team because he can play multiple positions," Moore said. "He has great ball control and has the ability to terminate. He can play all the way around. It's almost difficult to hone down one position for him because he does everything so well. Parker can come in a match, and wherever we are struggling, he can fill that void. He is a typical role player. He has a very sound understanding of the game that allows him to understand the role of each position and can put that ball where it needs to go."

Moore feels that Russell's adeptness to new challenges and still succeeding can add to his team at the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships.

"Aaron is physically dominating offensively and defensively," Moore continued. "Teams are forced to commit to him. They try to slow him down, but he has the ability to fire off a solid range of shots whether it's hitting sharp angles or sending deep shots. His block makes it difficult for the other team to establish an offensive rhythm."

Moore also believes that Brown and Russell hold respectable qualities that exuberate leadership both on and off of the court. When players are only together for a week of camp before the five-day tournament, that goes a long way toward a team's success.

"Aaron is very mature in the way he carries himself," Moore said. "You can tell he has had a career filled with great coaching along the way. Players look to him for guidance and leadership also because of his physical abilities.

"Parker is more passive-aggressive and he will do whatever needs to be done. Because of his ability to take on the any position, the guys gravitate toward him. You need his presence on the court in some way."

Brown and Russell will continue to lead their team at the USAV HP Championships in tournament play through July 30.

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