Every year athletes across the Air Force try out for a chance to not only represent their base, but the Air Force at a national level.
For one 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Weapons Load team member, his opportunity arose through the Air Force Men’s Volleyball program.
Senior Airman Evan LaRochelle’s journey began at the Air Force Men’s Volleyball trial camp May 4 through 5 where he underwent two days of a strict skills and fitness assessment tryout at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
“I have a few friends who have played for military teams in the past and they insisted that I try out. My friends had great experiences traveling while representing the Air Force, which was the real kicker in my decision to try out,” said LaRochelle.
“Prior to the Air Force Volleyball Camp, I would play locally in Lancaster on Monday nights, jump train at Monster Fitness and work cardio in by playing on the beach in Huntington Beach, Calif.”
To get to tryouts, LaRochelle noted that the initial application process consisted of filling out an Air Force Form 303 with his prior experiences and listing references that could attest to his skill level. From there, he submitted his AF 303 to the base sports director, Kristen Haidle, and waited for the selection notice.
“The experience was like no other, I had an absolute blast getting paid to play the sport I love. When I arrived, tryouts were an extreme two-day process of skill evaluation where the coaches had a very tough time screening through the 18 individuals that they invited and getting down to our best 10,” said LaRochelle. “Once the decisions were made and I made the team, we began two-a-day practices before competing as a team.”
According to LaRochelle, practices lasted three hours that consisted of a mid-day team bonding exercise to get the team in sync before the Armed Forces and USA Volleyball National Tournament, which was held in Detroit, Mich., May 22 through 27.
“Throughout the camp we got to scrimmage against local club teams and the Local Professional Volleyball League (PVL) Team-New England. The camp allowed us to play cohesively as a team and perform well at nationals,” LaRochelle said. “The first day of nationals we played against the Army and Navy teams, which were very heated and emotional games. Through hard-fought battles, we came out on top and won the gold medal in the All-Armed Forces Championship.”
At the conclusion of the All-Armed Forces championship, the Air Force team placed 10th overall in the tournament. At the end of play, LaRochelle noted that all of the Armed Forces coaches gathered to pick an All-Armed Forces team which consisted of the best players from each military service team to play in an exhibition match against Canada’s World League team.
“I was ecstatic to make the All-Armed Forces team as its Libero (back row player) and also as an outside hitter. It was an unbelievable experience to play at such a high level and I will be applying to play every year that I am in,” said LaRochelle.
“I highly recommend that every athlete goes out for their specific sport and represent the Air Force at the highest level possible. It is a simple process, the squadron support is there and the opportunity is one you will not want to miss,” added LaRochelle. “At first I was unsure of the support I would get from my leadership, especially as a maintainer. Once I brought up the idea, I had a wave of support and my AF 303 was routed through the organization in no time. My shop was excited for me and supported the idea genuinely. The Air Force Sports teams have a broad spectrum of positives for the big Air Force and my leadership understood that and supported me on my journey.”