Taking it to extremes
BYU's Sander traded in extreme sports for volleyball
LOS ANGELES -- While the aggressive style BYU's Taylor Sander possesses has made him an All-American volleyball player, how he got that style would be a little unsettling to any coach.
Sander grew up in Huntington Beach, California, which is nicknamed Surf City. in addition to water sports, the area is a hot bed for extreme sports, such as skateboarding and BMX bicycling.
Those were activities Sander embraced in addition to motocross. His family went on several trips with dirt bikes and Sander was exposed to the sport at an early age.
“I grew up riding dirt bikes and motorcycles and quads and we’ve always had a boat so we go out to the lake and I would waterski and wakeboard,” Sander said. “Throughout high school, I got into surfing and in the summer I would do that. I also did a lot of skateboarding.”
His style for those sports was pretty much you would expect from a Southern California teenager.
“I was definitely fearless,” Sander said. “I would go out there and hit really big jumps for as small as I was. I would push my dad and take the same jumps he would.”
[assetId:176327:2013 NC MEN'S VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP]That attitude was also apparent with his friends, who often tried to one-up each other at the skate park or dirt lots, riding bicycles.
“I am a really competitive kid and when I get out there, I want to play aggressive and with no fear,” Sander said. “It was always the battle in the neighborhood of what kid could do the best trick or do the highest jump.”
However, when Sander started to get more serious about volleyball the daredevil routine subsided.
“It was a personal decision,” Sander said. “I wanted to be careful. I saw volleyball as something I could take off with and I got more serious about it. I think it was good for me when I wasn’t playing volleyball to just rest and let my body heal.”
He carried that philosophy when he earned a scholarship to BYU, much to the relief of his coach Chris McGown.
“I think he sees that volleyball is a unique case for him because he’s probably going to pay some bills down the road,” McGown said. “Not all our guys are going to have that opportunity.”
“I know I have a future in volleyball,” Sander said. “I don’t want to do anything that would hurt that.”
Most coaches would have made it an ultimatum to cut out the dangerous extracurricular activities, but McGown let his athletes decide.
“The interesting thing for us is we’ve been able to give those guys the green light with everything,” McGown said. “Go skiing, go snowboarding, ride motocross, do whatever you want we aren’t going to tell you not to, but understand that here’s the implications of what you’re doing, if you get hurt.”
Sander heeded his coach’s words.
“You have to decide what’s important and your commitment to the team. Taylor has told people straight up ‘I love motocross but I’ve stopped because it is too dangerous. I just can’t afford to get hurt.’”
Well not entirely.
“I thought about cutting back on that stuff,” Sander said. “I still like to do it, but I am more careful about what I am doing. I’m more mindful and not as crazy. I know I have a bigger responsibility now. I know I can let my team down if I get hurt.”
Now Sander’s recreational pursuits are a bit tamer.
“I still skateboard, but I am more into long boarding now,” Sander said. “I like to cruise down little hills and around town. I don’t go to the skate parks anymore.”
Dirt biking is not out of the picture, either.
“It’s been a big part of my family and my life,” Sander said. “I’ve been really blessed to do that stuff and I want it to be part of me for a long time. I hit some jumps and hills but I am in complete control. Things can always go wrong, but it is a lot safer. I don’t go all out like I used to.”