“It’s really a sport where you have to be mentally engaged 24/7. You can’t have a single lapse in consciousness or else you become disengaged with your athletic self,” said Simpson.
Simpson began playing volleyball three years prior to Andover and joined the team when he was a new Lower. According to Coach Clyfe Beckwith, Simpson has always been a model teammate during his time here.
Coach Beckwith said, “Neil is humble, dedicated, [and] empathetic, inspiring by his actions and encouragement.”
Simpson is a setter on the team, acting as a distributor of the offense.
“I have tried to just spread the ball around as much as possible to give everyone equal opportunity to hit. Just to develop everyone as much as possible,” said Simpson.
According to Coach Beckwith, Joe Kacergis PG’19, and Co-Captain Clay Briggs ’19, Simpson is willing to put all of his effort into each play as setter.
Kacergis wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “As a player, Neil excels at playing the vocal game… He also isn’t afraid of calling players out if they try to steal a ball meant for him.”
Coach Beckwith wrote, “He is awesome, especially his ability to get under the ball. Then he wows by making outstanding sets from what feared to be unplayable balls.”
According to Simpson, the team’s inexperience gives the team a chance to grow.
Simpson said, “Last year, I felt like we were missing a bit of the edge, but this year, we have a younger team. We’ve got a less experienced team, and I think that just makes everyone super willing to learn, super willing to play, super willing to try new things, and I think that will serve us better come the end of the season.”
Simpson models his enthusiasm for the sport in past team member Rawit Assamongkol ’18.
Simpson said, “When we played volleyball last year, [Assamongkol] just was the perfect leader on the volleyball court.… A huge thing about volleyball is just bringing energy every single point and just not holding back ever during any point, and that was Rawit. He wasn’t a captain, but he was probably the best leader I ever had on the volleyball court in terms of just knowing his teammates so well and knowing exactly how to boost the energy on the court constantly.
Simpson motivates his teammates by being a composed presence on the team and a model of fitness, but also by showing interest in each team member’s life off of the court, according to Kacergis and Briggs.
“Neil makes it his goal to be personally involved in our lives both on and off the court. Not only does he motivate us in the ways of volleyball, but also in life in general,” wrote Kacergis.
“As our Canadian representative to the team, Neil has given us all lessons in kindness and generosity. As a player, Neil embodies Coach Amanfu’s favorite phrase: ‘Hard work beat talent when talent don’t work,’” wrote Briggs.
Simpson emphasizes athleticism, and he sees potential for the future of the team during the rest of the season.
“A lot of the kids on the team, they haven’t had that much volleyball experience. They haven’t had that much court time, even on the team this year, but the thing I try to emphasize is just being athletic. Using your natural talent to jump as high as you can and just go up and hit every ball as high as they can,” said Simpson.
He continued, “A lot of times, kids will get caught up thinking too much about the technique of their hit, too much about their technique of their approach to the net, think about too much of their arm swing or something, and they just lose sight of the bigger picture of just playing in the game and being athletic and having fun.”