In many athletes’ career, there comes a time when they make a long-term commitment to a specific sport.
Oak Park-River Forest’s Ben Hancock found himself at that crossroads two years ago, when he cast aside football and basketball in favor of volleyball.
Hancock, now a senior setter, has become both a high-level college recruit and an irreplaceable cog in the Huskies’ lineup.
“I really loved football and basketball, but I wasn’t playing as much, so volleyball just seemed to be the right fit,” Hancock said. “I was having the most fun, and I really wanted to continue to develop those skills.”
At the beginning of his junior year, Hancock began training year-round with the Sports Performance club in Aurora. Because he had previously split his athletic attention among several fronts, there was a lot of refinement necessary to become a skilled volleyball player.
That process served as a rude awakening.
“Up until that point, I had sort of just been winging it formwise,” said Hancock, who resides in River Forest. “The first week they sat me down, and they said, ‘Your setting release is really awful, really atrocious.’ I was OK athletically, but I was still a really raw volleyball player.”
And setter is not a position where being raw can work. Quick thinking and situational awareness skills are vital, such as recognizing which teammate is hot and how to exploit matchups. That all has to be in place before the most tangible part of the setting job comes to the fore — getting the ball where it needs to be.
After three months of practice, Hancock said his game had been transformed, and it showed in club scrimmages and in his burgeoning confidence.
“It was three months of sheer hell; you start doubting yourself and thinking you can’t do it,” Hancock recalled. “I remember saying to myself, ‘If I never touch a volleyball ever again, I’ll be a happy guy.’ But we have a rule in our house: Once you…