The man in the court by Andre Davancens

The Athlete

How long have you been playing volleyball for?

“I started when I was in seventh grade making this my sixth year.”

What made you get into volleyball so early?

“I had played sports when I was younger, baseball, soccer, but I'd kind of bounced off of those and never took to one. So after I took a break from sports for a very long time my parents pushed me to play a sport. That sport ended up being volleyball.”

Why’d you stick with it? What prevented it from being another ?

“I just found it to be a very interesting sport. It's a very dynamic and complicated sport. It's built on very simple foundations. But from those foundations, and how they interact, it leads to very complex situations where you have to know what to do and how to react. It requires a very, very precise control over movements, both in the air and on the ground.”

Was volleyball love at first sight or did you grow into it?

“My first club year was in eighth grade and that's when I really took a liking to it. My first team with a pretty good team and I felt like I grew a lot, even though it was my first year doing high level volleyball and second year doing volleyball overall.

I was starting to explore the sport, eighth grade year, but I was starting to take a more and more of a liking to it. It was my ninth grade year though when I decided that it was something that I really wanted to stick with and that I loved to do.”

Why did you decide to go to VNHS?

“It's all a blur now, but I did a lot of stuff to research high schools. I made a big old list of all the high schools in LA City that I could go to. I went through it a couple times and marked down high schools that looked interesting to me or I thought had a good academic program.

That's what I focused on first, academics. I don't even think I looked at highschool volleyball programs actually. But, I saw Van Nuys High School was a good academic school.

It was between that and a few other schools. Even though it was fairly far away from me, about 20 miles, I decided to go for it. I had visited and I liked what I saw. VNHS has a very nice campus, and I liked the teachers I saw.”

Stanley spiking the ball at a 2018 invitational tournament playing for the San Gabriel Elite Volleyball Club. (PHOTO | DEBBIE WOO)

How was it joining the team as a freshman varsity player?

“Well, I'd actually gone out to see a game of the boys team when I was in eighth grade before I went to Van Nuys high school. My mom found out the days that they were playing. And it was fairly late in the year, they were already in the playoffs. After that game, I had already decided to go to VNHS so I introduced myself to the coach.

He was starting up the program at that time, he had just taken over that year from the previous coach. It was a fairly simple process to get into the program after that, Coach Omri knew who I was so he invited me to play a bit. It was kind of informal but, at tryouts it was all about getting to know the kids that you have.

He just wanted to get people into the program, as any sports program does really. He saw that I had prior experience. Coaches in the LA City section typically don't get a whole lot of kids who have prior experience. So he saw that I had experience and that I could contribute to the team. So he decided to put me on the varsity team.”

Was there any uncertainty going in as a freshman?

“Well I was the only freshman on the varsity team and I was one of the few freshmen who joined that year. Going into it. I thought it was good and I felt that I was made welcome. There were a lot of good kids on the team. My first year, Jacob Lee was the leader of our team. He was a junior when I joined but even so they made me feel welcome.

They had their friends groups already established, they had already played with each other on JV so they knew each other for a few years, a lot of juniors, a few seniors. But I think they made me feel welcome, despite me being a freshman.”

Is there a sense of pride starting in this program?

“Yeah, I'm just proud of my coach for doing all that he's done. He has done a whole lot for the program. In the short time that he's been here, he set up our website on his own, he videotapes most of our games — all of them for this year. And he's been responsible for getting us into a lot of tournaments and really expanding the level of play and amount of play we have inside and outside of season.

I'm just thankful for all that he's done. And I'm proud of the work that he's put in and the work that all my teammates put in.”

What was your progression from freshman to senior team captain?

“I'd always always had that sort of senior role because I'd been there a year before my current teammates. I took a lot of roles outside of the game. I was making sure everyone was doing okay mentally. How they were feeling, if anyone was out of practice.

All of us would make sure if someone was in a practice and that coach knew why and we'd reach out to them. We’d take care of our gym because we share it with a lot of other people, we want to make sure it's as clean as possible for when we use it. It's our home really. I wasn't terribly assertive just because I wasn't a captain but, if I felt that we weren't doing something the way we were supposed to, or as well as we could have, I would make sure to atleast address it.

My freshman and sophomore years, it was that same friend group I was talking about. So like Jacob Lee, William Lee, Josh Clavio, and all these other guys. They were all juniors when I joined so the team captain and all that was already set. When that team graduated, my sophomore year, we brought in a lot of guys from JV and really had to sort of rebuild.

My Junior year we brought in that team, what i'm referring to as the new team anyway. And since I had already been on varsity for a while, I took sort of a senior position. I wasn't captain, officially. But I tried to lead as best I could without stepping on anyone's toes. Now I’m officially the team captain of the new team.”

The Student

Look around campus and you’re sure to see Jake walking around with a textbook in his hand. Jake is always ready to lend a hand to someone in need.

How has your academic life been outside of sports?

“Sophomore year I had to really double down on the amount of time I was spending doing homework. We’d practice for a long time so I was cutting out a lot of downtime that I'd been using for relaxing and stuff like that. I had to start pushing it to the side to do homework just because I had so much to do.

Junior year was the same way, outside of practicing and school I had very little time other than that I spent doing homework and eating. It got to be a little tough to deal with that kind of balance. But because I just love the sport as much as I do, it was a little easier. Even if I didn't get to rest as much as maybe would be preferred.

It was a lot of work but, I think it was definitely worth it. I strive for academic success as much as I do athletic success. I have to reiterate, I'm a student-athlete but student always comes first. At one point in your life athletics will end. But what you've learned in school will be carried with you, at least for some time.”

What are your academic interests?

“That was a question I had to tackle sometime last year when I was thinking to myself. What do I want to do? College is coming up soon and I need to get my applications in, so I needed to know what I was going to apply for.

I had always had a pretty strong interest in the sciences. I've always found them interesting and amazing, especially the physical sciences. Social Sciences are also very interesting but I like physical sciences the most. I am an outdoorsman, while that might be a little embellishing, I like the outdoors.

Jake Stanley hiking in Kings Canyon (PHOTO | RYAN STANLEY)

On second thought, outdoorsman sounds a bit wacky. I had gone camping with my family a lot in the past, especially with my brother. He's sort of the one who got me into hiking and camping and all that. So because of that, I also have a vested interest in the environment.

The major that I've decided to go for is environmental engineering. It combines the physical sciences with my love of nature and concern for the environment pretty well. Now, I don't know if I'm going to stick with that in the end, because changing majors is very common. So I have left a few options open for myself, just to give myself breathing room if I want to reconsider in the future.

One of those options would be astrophysics. Again, going back to my brother, he gave me a book called The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, who was a renowned astrophysicist. He was deGrasse Tyson's teacher and founder of the TV show cosmos, of which he was the host. Those sort of sparked my interest in the field of astrophysics”

What colleges are you looking at?

“As much as I've been doing work to put myself out there, I started fairly late in the recruitment game. Volleyball recruiting for men's volleyball starts as early as eighth grade. I was still learning the sport when I was in eighth grade, I'm still learning the sport now.

Even junior year is a bit late to start the recruitment process. But I have reached out to a lot of colleges recently. Over the summer I did a lot of work putting together videos and reaching out to colleges. I have not committed to any college yet but, I do have several colleges that are interested in having me in their program or at least would be interested to see me as a walk on, should I decide to go to their school.

Out of the schools that I've reached out to, those who have responded back so far are top D3 schools. The Milwaukee School of Engineering has shown interest in me and want me to visit their school sometime in November. I don't know if that's going to happen still, though due to covid-19. I had also contacted Santa Cruz, unfortunately to get back to me, they're also a top school.

The universities that have shown an interest in considering me as a walk on would be UCSD, which is a D one program, and Harvard. But so far, that's still sort of in the middle, neither here nor there. They need to see more of me, and I need to show them a bit more.”

What is your dream school?

“I have several but if we are looking overall, UCLA just because it's such a solid school. It's close and I like big schools, just because I've grown up in a fairly big city. Stanford is also great unfortunately, they stopped their men's volleyball program after this year. The Board of Trustees decided to strike it down along with 12 other programs, but who knows, maybe they'll reconsider?

Harvard would be great, Princeton would be great, UCSD and UC Irvine would be great, all these big name schools. They are all big schools, all good schools, all solid volleyball schools as well.”