NEW BRITAIN - When seniors Randy Slart and Bryan Rodriguez heard that New Britain High School was fielding a boys volleyball team for the first time in school history, the two soon-to-be graduates immediately wanted to be a part of the first-ever group to take the court for the Hurricanes.
Sure, the team would be a part of their lives for mere months before they moved on, but to celebrate the end of their high school careers, Slart and Rodriguez wanted to be the part of a new beginning.
“I wanted to try out something new,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to get out and try volleyball and maybe play it in college.”
For the two seniors, joining New Britain volleyball was more than just trying something they hadn’t been a part of before. The reality was, the early days were certain to be rough, at least in terms of wins and losses, but it was about for laying the foundation for what the Hurricanes hope will eventually become a winning culture,
“You have to be a tough kid to start a new program and know things will be tough,” Abraham said. “Can you handle that? That’s a lot of credit to them that they stepped up and are establishing the morale here at New Britain High.”
Abraham immediately went to work on establishing a culture of positivity and discipline, but the first ones to break ground on a new project normally like to still be around when the work is done. Slart and Rodriguez know this, yet still jumped at the opportunity. They may not still be wearing the Hurricanes logo when the team starts seeing wins next to its name, but they take comfort in knowing that they were part of the group that started the program towards those wins.
“I wanted to be part of history,” Slart said. “I wanted to be part of this new program with these boys.”
Both Slart and Rodriguez understand and even embrace the situation they signed up for. Seniors by name, the two have jumped onto the volleyball court with a freshman’s enthusiasm, as the two upperclassmen learn a new trade as they enter the home stretch of their four years at New Britain.
“They’re absorbing everything,” Abraham said. “They’re like sponges.”
Abraham’s “sponges” find themselves in a unique situation. Normally, a locker room looks to its seasoned veterans, normally upperclassmen, for leadership and guidance. But what happens when every player’s resume is the same blank sheet, regardless of what year is next to their name? Abraham has welcomed leadership opportunities from Slart and Rodriguez, but on a team where inexperience is widespread, she has appreciated the leadership that comes from everywhere on the roster, allowing her two seniors to provide an example while also learning a sport that is new to them.
“You don’t create a leader,” Abraham said. “It’s embedded in you. Each one of them has their own characteristic that makes them a key factor on the court.”
Slart acknowledges his newness to the game, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to take the lead on a New Britain team looking to secure the program’s first-ever win.
“As a senior you want to set an example for the young guys,” Slart said. “That’s what I try to do. I just want to show up every day for these guys and try to help them improve more.”
The improvements for New Britain will come, though Slart and Rodriguez may be gone by the time it happens. Regardless, they’re unique senior campaigns will serve as a pillar for whatever the future holds for New Britain boys volleyball.
“In a way it’s good and bad,” Abraham said. “I’m only losing two players, but unfortunately for them, they’re done. But at least they had the opportunity.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com