There’s a saying, “Nothing has ever been achieved without trying.”
That same ideology is what propelled 1st Lt. Jonathan Fullenkamp to try out for the 2014 All-Air Force Men’s Volleyball team and make it.
“The idea to try out for the Air Force Men’s Volleyball Team was first planted by my father, retired Air Force Col. Bernie Fullenkamp, before I came on active duty. He informed me about the Air Force Sports Program and how I could play volleyball for the Air Force,” said Fullenkamp. “The first three years of my assignment at ‘The Rocket Lab’ were busy, adjusting to active duty life, as well as a 16-month stint as the Detachment 7 executive officer. It wasn’t until about a year ago that my friend and coach, Jet Fabara, and the previous Edwards Sports Director, Steven Lowe, both suggested that I try out for the team.”
Before trying out, Fullenkamp noted that the initial application process consisted of, first, obtaining his supervisor’s, commander’s, and the Fitness Center Director’s endorsements on the Air Force Form 303, “Request for USAF Specialized Sports Training.” The form had to be submitted before the deadline in March. Next was to play the waiting game.
“After I knew I made it, my primary goal was to train and tryout for the team. My preparation for try outs was a combination of training and conditioning on my own, as well as practicing with other base players. Former Air Force Men’s Volleyball players donated their time and skills to help me train, practice and run drills,” Fullenkamp said. “I typically trained six to seven days a week trying to prepare as best I could for the pending two-a-days at camp, which meant a lot of cardio, plyometrics, weights, running, to include lots and lots of stairs, and trying to get as much court time as possible. The training definitely paid off at camp.”
According to Fullenkamp, try outs at Nellis AFB, Nev., consisted of two four-hour sessions each day, with a break for team-lunch in between each session.
“Try outs were extremely challenging, both mentally and physically, with the first week being the most demanding,” said Fullenkamp. “Every session you had to be at 100 percent because everyone else was playing at such a high level. This was physically challenging, but also motivating at the same time. When you play with 11 other guys who are high-caliber players, it brings the best performance out of you.”
Although making the team was a challenge in itself, Fullenkamp noted that the AF team had to continue to train rigorously for the USA Volleyball Open National Championships in Phoenix, Ariz., held May 23 to 28.
“The team had its ups and downs at Nationals. We were a very competitive and skilled team and had successes throughout the tournament. However, I do not think any of us were completely satisfied with the final results,” Fullenkamp said. “With that said, I think we took away lessons learned that we’ll hopefully have a chance to put into practice sometime in the future.”
Although the Air Force Men’s Volleyball team finished 3-3 in their pool against the Navy, Army and three other open teams , they finished in 19th place out of 31 teams overall.
“Although I’ll be unable to try-out next year due to a permanent change of station, my plan is to continue to train and condition to put myself in a position to compete again on the Air Force men’s volleyball team,” said Fullenkamp. “There are many memories that I will take away from this experience. I made lifelong friendships with my teammates and learned even more about a game that I love. However, my fondest memory from this experience was being able to play in front of my family. My family all traveled to Phoenix to watch and support the Air Force team at Nationals. Having them on the sidelines supporting me and my teammates was a priceless experience.”
Fullenkamp left one final note before his change of station that he would recommend to any potential athletes at Edwards looking to compete at a higher level.
“My biggest piece of advice for anyone who is interested in Air Force Sports, would be to not wait to submit your AF 303 and tryout. I put it off for a few years out of fear that I wasn’t good enough and it wasn’t until Jet and Steve told me to go for it, that I became serious about the idea,” added Fullenkamp.
“Looking back, I wish I would have tried out sooner, and even if I didn’t make the team the first go around, I would have had more experience and would have known what to expect for future try outs.”
Fullenkamp is an Air Force Research Laboratory, Detachment 7, Advanced Tactical Booster Demonstration deputy program manager. Fullenkamp also coached the junior varsity girls team at Lancaster High School for the past three years.