BYU star plays for love of game

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    By Ben Schroeder

    A graceful touch by Carlos Moreno sets up a teammate who jumps as high as any basketball player. He swings half way with his left arm then brings his right arm up and rotates it, meeting the ball three feet above the net. The movement of the player throws off the defenders on the other side of the net. The ball rockets down to the floor completing another kill by Jonathan Alleman.

    Alleman, one of BYU”s returning All-Americans, said he has a slim chance of making a professional team let alone the Olympic team. When asked why, he simply replied he is too short.

    Alleman has played volleyball most of his life. He led the team in kills last year with 440. He played on the 2001 national championship team and this year is second on the team in kills, averaging 3.95 a game. With all these impressive numbers, what does the future hold for Alleman?

    “I”m hoping to go to law school here,” Alleman said. “Some coaching and being a good supporter of the game. I hope to announce some of the games next year.”

    A typical year income for someone that plays professional volleyball is $35,000 to $40,000, about the same as a school teacher. Alleman commented that out of the 22 players on the BYU roster this year maybe three or four can go on to play professionally. Most of the foreign players are at BYU to get an education while playing the game they love.

    For a future in the sport, Italy has the best leagues and you can make a six-figure salary in that country, but the rest is slim picking.

    Even coaching is not an easy bet. Alleman is down to earth when he says he wouldn”t mind just coaching a club team.

    “After I have made my millions I wouldn”t mind going back to a good university to teach and coach,” said the 6-foot-3 senior from Yorba Linda, Calif. “All the people that I have talked to that go and play professional volleyball say they do not like it. They still do it for the love of the game, but that”s all.”

    Some volleyball players tend to do the surfer bum thing, living their lives on the beaches of California. “Beach volleyball tends to be a popular choice,” Alleman said.

    So why would someone want to make it his living?

    BYU men”s volleyball coach Tom Peterson has a quick answer.

    “It”s an additive sport. You got to be good to make a bunch of money at it,” he said.

    According to Peterson, volleyball may be a harder sport to go professionally than basketball or even football. Two to three percent of high school players go on to college and maybe one percent moves on to the pro leagues, some out of choice, but others don”t like the situation of the pro leagues.

    There are few if any high schools in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Nevada and others that carry men”s volleyball, and there are only 70 colleges in the United States that carry the program (less than wrestling). Finding a coaching position is not easy, with little money involved.

    In 1990, BYU was one of the few programs that added men”s volleyball to its school sponsored sports. Most former players just coach club teams on their own time. Most players and other coaches think coaching club teams is much more relaxing situation.

    “Our country is so locked into having academics with sports,” Peterson said. “I think we are the only country that does that. Club systems are a better system because you don”t have cheating and academics together.”

    Peterson enjoys his job and has been in the business for a long time. He was the coach for BYU”s club volleyball team back in the ”80s and later found positions with women”s volleyball teams. Peterson had stops with teams like Penn State, Utah State and New Mexico until he finally came back to Provo to be the head coach.

    Alleman said you need to be a very experienced player and coach to get a position with a men”s college program. Most people tend to coach the women”s teams and later find a men”s team to coach.

    But, Peterson still loves the unity of men”s volleyball and the power of the sport.

    “This is the ultimate team sport,” said Peterson. “Other sports have a choice to give the ball or not, but volleyball you must pass it to the right position to score.”

    Peterson is convinced that”s why he loves the sport: It”s additive and powerful with a lot of force, even if coaching doesn”t pay a lot.

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