Prodigy-like potential

Homeschooler Logan Smith sets himself up for success on and off the court

At 6 feet 3 inches, Logan Smith, now 19, grew up playing the sport that was the common choice among young athletes with his kind of height: basketball. He excelled during his years of competing in the Lynchburg Home School Athletic Association, but at age 16, a newfound pursuit captured his attention: beach volleyball.

switch — Logan Smith mainly played basketball until he found a love for volleyball. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Switch — Logan Smith mainly played basketball until he found a love for volleyball. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

Fast-forward two years after his first experience with volleyball, and Logan Smith and his teammate, Thomas Boring, 18, placed fifth in the 2014 USA Junior Beach Volleyball Tour, a national competition held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While his training in basketball provided him with some foundation for volleyball, his initial experience with the game revealed no hints of his future accomplishments.

Logan Smith, now a high school senior who also takes two residential classes at Liberty, accompanied his sister to a volleyball open gym one afternoon about two years ago.

Logan Smith’s soon-to-be teammate also attended and invited him to join his team, and Logan Smith does not try to disguise his debut performance.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” Logan Smith said. “I had never touched a volleyball before in my life.”

Though Logan Smith was unaware of it, Boring saw traits in him that captured his attention.

“He actually picked up some things quickly, and he would correct mistakes on a dime,” Boring said. “It was really his ability to be coached.”

Not long after, the two became teammates.

Logan Smith and Boring diligently trained for close to a month before their first tournament, with Logan Smith mostly learning to grasp the fundamentals of the game.

Boring’s father, an experienced volleyball player and coach, assisted Logan Smith in understanding the basics of the sport.

“(Contrary to indoor volleyball), in beach volleyball you have to master every single skill,” Logan Smith said. “You have to pass, set, hit and serve.”

With just one other player on his side of the court, Logan Smith lacked the chance to stand passively in the background while he adjusted to the speed of a real game.

His competitive drive led him to feel prepared for a small tournament in a nearby town.

“We placed second in the tournament,” Logan Smith said. “Well, there were only three teams in this one,” he laughingly admitted.

While his demeanor is generally easygoing and relaxed, Logan Smith said the volleyball court brings out a more fervent side of him than basketball does. Boring commented that Logan Smith’s enthusiasm for the game closely mirrors his own. Even a small win ignited a spark powerful enough to inspire Logan Smith to continue practicing with an even more intense regimen.

“Once we saw the fruit of our training, we thought, ‘Let’s do this,’” Logan Smith said. “We started training a bit more and played in some of the beach tournaments at Liberty. It really helped (us) build chemistry.”

The next stop for the duo involved a regional tournament held in Atlanta. There, Logan Smith met world champion beach volleyball player Sinjin Smith.

“(Sinjin Smith) actually coached us before playing the championship game,” Logan Smith said. “Except I didn’t know who he was until I met him. He gave us really simple advice. He said, ‘You pass forward. You set straight up and down. You jump straight up to hit.’”

The advice propelled them to a first-place finish in the tournament, earning them a free trip to the national tournament at Bradford Beach in Milwaukee this past summer.

Arriving at the national tournament proved to be the most pivotal and challenging moment of their efforts thus far. The national stage brought with it extra nerves and pressure, but Logan Smith kept his composure by sticking with his simple pregame routine. After advancing with relative ease past the first rounds, Logan Smith and Boring fell to the team that later finished as runner-up, sealing fifth place in the tournament. Logan Smith felt the sting of an early exit, but the team’s progress has served as motivation for future competitions.

Beach volleyball season begins at the end of April, according to the Federation Internationalle De Volleyball, and Logan Smith and Boring plan on entering into professional tournaments this summer where they expect to be some of the youngest participants. They will get the experience of playing with some of the best in the game, and because the team has been the youngest duo in similar tournaments, Logan Smith and Boring have relished the description of an underdog.

“We like it that way,” Logan Smith said.

Clarke is a guest writer.

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