Non-LDS volleyball players embrace BYU’s party-free culture

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For those not of the LDS faith, coming to BYU can be a huge culture shock.

Joseph Grosh, Josue Rivera and Jaylen Reyes, of the men’s volleyball team, aren’t members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Middle blocker Grosh hails from Danville, Calif., outside hitter Rivera is a native of Puerto Rico, and Reyes is from Honolulu. The players sat down with The Universe to describe their experiences of attending a church-sponsored university and what BYU has come to mean for them.

BYU volleyball player Josue Rivera, back row, second to left, celebrates a victory with his former team in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy Josue Rivera
BYU volleyball player Josue Rivera, back row, second to left, celebrates a victory with his former team in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy Josue Rivera

When you were first recruited to play on the team, what were your expectations about BYU?

Grosh: I’ve grown up around the church; I come from a split family, so my mom and brother converted, but my dad and I did not. I’ve always known about the church and Mormons. I didn’t expect a lot of things and it was overwhelming when I first got here. You have so many people with similar tastes and coming from a place where there weren’t many members, it was definitely an adjustment. As the year went on it was easier, but when I first got here I felt alienated. Once you find a friend group, it becomes a lot easier to adjust.

Rivera: I was curious. I thought it would be a lot of rules and they would try to convert me. But it’s fine here. Once you get to know the people, you realize they’re really nice. You feel welcome.

Reyes: I went to another school before I came here, and it was completely different. When I decided to transfer here, I hung out with Taylor and Josue. They were the ones explaining the different rules. Josue told me about how he had to transition, how I couldn’t do this or that, what a stake and ward was, etc. But it hasn’t been bad.

Why did you want to come to BYU?

Grosh: The things I considered were the volleyball team and the academics. The volleyball team was one of the top in the country so it was definitely in my top choices. The other school I was looking at was Irvine, and they both had really high, competitive teams. It was definitely the school that got me here. I was an engineering major when I first got here, but I looked at the programs overall and saw that everything was good, in case I did wanted to switch my major.

Rivera: I wasn’t sure, but then I took the recruiting trip and they showed me the campus. The whole school was really nice and the team was the second in the nation at the time, so I said OK.

Reyes: The school is really good here, but so is volleyball. I always wanted to go to school somewhere where it was really different from Hawaii. It’s kind of cool going to school in the snow; half of my friends back home have never seen snow in their lives.

How does the BYU college experience differ from what you expected college to be like?

Grosh: I feel like I’ve been here so long that this is what the college life is like. I talk to my friends who go to other schools, and you definitely hear things that would never go on at BYU. But I’ve grown to love it. The longer you stay here, the more you find your niche.

Rivera: No crazy parties, no frat houses and stuff like that. You have more time to relax and chill and can place more focus on volleyball and studying. It’s good. It was hard coming first of all because of the weather; here I was freezing. It was hard adjusting to the culture. You get used to it. It’s still fun.

Reyes: Because my dad went to BYU-Hawaii for a bit, and with what Taylor and Josue told me, I wasn’t coming in blind. It was kind of hard, but it wasn’t surprising to me. But it really wasn’t that hard of a transition.

Coming from a non-LDS perspective, what does the BYU brand mean to you?

Grosh: Coming out of BYU, you get a good education and degree. And being a student athlete here, you gain a good work ethic. You still have to work just as hard as every other student while putting 20-30 hours a week into your sport. I think what it means to me is having your set morals and being disciplined enough to follow all the rules here.

Rivera: People around here treat me super good, like family. The coaches, students, athletic department, everyone. They are always willing to help and welcome you.

Reyes: It’s been great. Volleyball is top of the line here. My major is really hard, but it’s going to set me up for whatever I want to do. I love the whole family environment that the church brings. All of the rules keep you out of trouble. On my last team you would have kids getting kicked out for doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing. It’s super nice coming here and not having to worry about all of that stuff going on.

What would you say to future non-LDS recruits?

Grosh: Definitely don’t compare it to other colleges. If you compare it to what everyone else is doing, you’ll definitely have doubts. If you take the school as it is, it’s actually a really pleasant experience. Overall, just come here to have fun.

Rivera: I would tell them I love it. If they were the partying type, they for sure wouldn’t like it. You’ll maybe go to one party and get home at 12 p.m., but that’s all. Other than that, I would really recommend it.

Reyes: I would just explain the rules to them and tell them that it really isn’t that hard of a transition. I come from a lifestyle that is almost completely opposite from here. The rules are to do the right thing. When you come here, see where we play and all of the facilities and go to the football games or basketball games, BYU kind of recruits itself.

What would one word be to describe your college experience thus far?

Reyes: Awesome.

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