Since first playing volleyball during his Junior year, Co-Captain Isaac Blackburn-Johnson ’18 has developed a deep passion for the sport and has become one of Andover Boys Volleyball’s premier players.
According to Blackburn-Johnson, his first coaches played a big part in getting him into the game.
“I started playing with the JV team, and I immediately became attached to the sport. Mostly, this was due to my excellent coaches [Victor] Svec and [Suzanne] Buckwalter, who inspired a great deal of respect and love for the game in me,” wrote Blackburn-Johnson in an email to The Phillipian. “I still get flashbacks to Mr. Svec’s style of play whenever anyone pushes a ball into the deep court — he was always the master of the cheeky dump.”
Another part of the game that captivates Blackburn-Johnson is the amount of dedication and responsibility required for the sport.
“Volleyball demands a level of responsibility unlike any other sport I have ever taken part in,” wrote Blackburn-Johnson. “Not only are you responsible for yourself, but you have to be ready to cover at all times for the guy standing next to you and be ready to take over for him without hesitation. It’s more that looking out for teammates — you have to be prepared to do your job and their jobs, too.”
Blackburn-Johnson’s towering height and leadership on court make him a force to be reckoned with, according to teammate Clay Briggs ’19.
“Isaac’s supple smacks and bouncy blocks leave nothing to be desired between the gray lines of the volleyball court,” said Briggs. “When you hear him call for a one hit with his distinctively masculine voice, you can be sure the hit will send an earthquake-like reverberation throughout the gym and a new crater within the ten-foot lines of the court. In fact, we have to tell him to pull back sometimes because, if left unhindered, Isaac’s hits will damage the foundation of the building.”
“His positioning in the back row responds well to the location of the hit. Without this accretion, we would lose many more points than we would have,” added teammate Rawit Assamongkol ’18. “His quick spikes from the back row are more impressive because of his reach.”
The little things he does off court, however, are what stand out about Blackburn-Johnson, according to Assamongkol.
“Isaac plays music during practices; he increases team morales. He reminds us about our uniforms,” said Assamongkol. “Everything he does off the court is eponymous to our victory on the court.”
“He is open to giving music suggestions upon request, which is greatly appreciated by certain members of the team, like Ben Meyer ’18, who can never seem to queue up good music,” added Briggs.
A big part of Blackburn-Johnson’s success comes from his teammates, on whom he relies upon during games and practices.
“One has to be fully confident in and reliant on the abilities of his/her teammates to be successful, but must also be willing to step in for them,” wrote Blackburn-Johnson. “My teammates are my biggest source of inspiration and my reason to play well – I look to them to celebrate points won and to apologize for mistakes.”
Nevertheless, Blackburn-Johnson is an impactful player and captain.
“Isaac is a clandestine leader. He invigilates the team during plays with his knowledge of volleyball play styles. As a hitter, his hits crush the other team,” said Assamongkol. “His flexibility in which role he promulgates allows others on the team to be flexible as well. Best of all though, his brevity at the net creates a strong offensive force.”
“Isaac is the ultimate player. When he strikes a ball, the resounding smack that is heard throughout the gym sends shivers up the opposing team’s tibias, vibrating their bodies to a frequency at which they cannot hope to receive Isaac’s monster hit,” added Briggs. “Whenever we have an away game, we make sure Isaac is the first one to step off the bus, so that any bystanders of the opposing school may witness his magnificent stature and clear volleyball prowess, and run off to warn others of the impending doom that is coming their way.”
According to Blackburn-Johnson, his job as a Co-Captain, along with other Co-Captain Evan Park ’18, is just to keep the team focused, energized, and positive.
“I try to maintain energy on the court with volume. I scream for the ball and call out other team’s servers or hitters when I sense drowsiness or lackluster focus from our side of the net,” wrote Blackburn-Johnson. “Either Evan or I bring the team in for chants or cheers following tense or impressive moments during games.”
With the new season already underway, Blackburn-Johnson, along with Park, look to lead Andover Boys Volleyball to a successful season.