Men's Volleyball Update: Weston Barnes

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With his final two regular-season home matches coming up later this week, senior libero Weston Barnes of the men's volleyball team penned this letter to his younger self:

Weston  Barnes

Dear 18-year-old Wes:

Two and a half years from now, you will be on the court in a ridiculously bright orange jersey. You'll look to the sideline and see Marv Dunphy. You can't tell by the stoic look on his face, but you will have just taken down the #1-ranked team in the country. None of this makes sense to you now, so let me explain.

Right now, you are one week from the start of your four-year college journey. Well actually, you're gonna need five years.

Tomorrow, you're going to get a phone call from your new volleyball coach at George Mason University. He's going to tell you that the captain of your team was hit by a train last night and died.

This will change the dynamic of your team, your college experience and the way you view life. You will see your teammates work themselves into the ground all season long to honor him. Learn from their work ethic.

But you won't be on the court with them. Remember when I told you that you would actually need five years? Well, at the start of the season, you're going to land weird on your left leg and tear your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This is going to absolutely suck. You won't be able to understand why your first year of college has gone the complete opposite direction from which you thought, but don't worry, you'll get it back.

This injury will teach you more about yourself and what you're capable of than you ever could have imagined. SO PUT YOUR HEAD DOWN AND GRIND. Work as hard as you can to come back stronger. The doctor will say that you'll be feeling 100% again in 8-12 months, you won't be, but keep working. Your sophomore year ... well, redshirt freshman now, you will be playing libero. Fourteen months after your ACL surgery, the doctor will have to surgically remove the screws from your knee that are causing you a stress fracture. Again, put your head down and work. You'll be back on the court in four weeks and playing some of the best ball of your career so far.

The summer after your sophomore year you'll get another call from your coach at George Mason. He's going to tell you that he's leaving the program.

You're going to realize that there might be something else out there for you. An opportunity to return home to the West Coast. An opportunity to improve your relationship with your family. An opportunity to play in a new conference against the best teams in the country night after night.

Act on this opportunity, but act fast because summer is almost over and the clock is ticking. Make phone calls, send emails and meet with any coach who is willing to meet with you. Make sure you reach out to David Hunt at Pepperdine and go meet with him. He will tell you that there's a 5% chance that you could attend Pepperdine in the fall.

The uncertainty of where you will spend the next three years of your life will break you, but you'll be prepared to handle it. Take the method of relentless pursuit that you had with your ACL rehab and apply it to the process of transferring.

To this day I am not exactly sure how, but it will work out despite the 5% probability. Pepperdine admissions will open up a transfer application for you and you will have two days to complete it.

A week later you will receive your acceptance to Pepperdine. This is one of those instances where everything just seems to work out beyond your scope of control. Please take the time to properly thank those who made this happen. You will forever be in debt to Jan Ward, Fred Chao, Bob Ctvrtlik, Lynn Fair, Bob Barnes and your parents for the ways they helped you through this process.

Because of this process, you will understand what a privilege it is to go to Pepperdine. Keep the lessons you've learned close because these tools will allow you to thrive here. Enjoy the history of Firestone Fieldhouse, learn the power of interpersonal communication from Coach Dunphy, cherish your conversations with Coach Hunt, and honor the players that came before you by competing as hard as you can every time you step on the court.

The first time you wear that orange jersey, one word will enter your mind and never leave: "FUEGO!" This word embodies who you are on the court and the excitement you feel every time you wear those orange and blue colors.

Your fifth and final year will come quickly, and your teammates will call you an old man, though you will never be as old as your Austrian teammate, Alex Harthaller. The thought of graduating will absolutely terrify you. Pepperdine will become a huge part of your identity, and you will be unsure what life looks like after college. But deep down you will know that your journey through college has prepared you to succeed at the next challenge. Once a Wave, always a Wave.

In this final year, your Pepperdine team will take a road trip back to your old stomping grounds, George Mason University. Wear your blue and orange with pride, but know that you would be nowhere without the guys that had your back in those first two years. 

Oh yeah, by the way, your three years at Pepperdine won't be all sunshine and rainbows. Yes, there will be a lot of beautiful sunshine in Malibu, but when you find yourself in the lowest lows, seek out a coach by the name of Max Rooke. He will teach you how to handle life's greatest challenges. Talk about your feelings, and he will tell you not to let an external force set the limitations of what you can accomplish. Maximize your power and happiness by focusing on what you can control, and don't let the things you can't control limit you.

Much love,

Weston "Fueg Train" Barnes

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