Senior setter Wil Stanley is embarking on his final season with BYU volleyball, and his brother, Jon, joined him for the first and final time.
Wil and Jon grew up in Hawaii as part of a volleyball family. Their dad, Jon, also played volleyball for BYU, and their older brother, Clay, played for Hawaii before joining Team USA in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
“Growing up in my family, there was always a volleyball around. My mom played, my dad played, everybody in my family played,” Jon said.
The sport kept the family close.
Despite Wil and Jon being just two years apart, they never played on a team together growing up. Both boys attended the same elementary school, but then split up and attended different middle and high schools. They each started for four years on their respective high school teams. Although the brothers never played on the same team growing up, they practiced together frequently.
“Whenever we were at home, we would go out in the backyard, and we would play one-on-one volleyball,” Wil said. “I always knew that if I wanted to go play volleyball, Jon would always want to go play. That was probably the biggest thing for us.”
The brothers played for different teams but for the same club growing up, so they spent hours at the same gym. Wil would have practice for two hours, and Jon’s practice would begin right afterward. While they played different positions, Jon was still able to learn a lot from watching his brother. Serving, playing defense and even blocking were just some of his skills that were influenced by Wil.
“Watching my brother play always made me want to get better, because I was like, ‘wow, he’s amazing. He’s so cool. I want to be able to do that,'” Jon said. “That set the standard for me as well, just because we’re so close in age that if he can do that, I can do it better.”
The brothers finally have the opportunity to play on the court together as part of the same team.
“You know, it’s a path that they’re going through together, but they’re also going through it individually. It’s exciting to see,” said coach Shawn Olmstead.
Their individual journeys are influenced by each other’s presence. Coach Olmstead said Wil’s experience at BYU has enabled him to be a mentor for his younger brother. Wil has been a leader during his years on the team, and now Jon gets to find his own path.
“He comes to me whenever he needs some advice, and I feel like I talk to him about stuff — we talk to each other about stuff that we don’t talk to any of our other teammates about. I feel like that strengthens our bond on the court,” Wil said. “We can trust each other.”
It’s easier for Wil to help Jon improve because of their brotherhood and trust for one another. Jon added that Wil always supports him and tries to help him improve, both on and off the court, even it means constructive criticism in a loving, brotherly-blunt tone.
During their first BYU game together on Jan. 10, Jon scored an ace, which was an exciting moment for both players. Jon said he credits his opportunity to play to Wil’s support and encouragement.
“When I went in for the first time and we got our first point, we just screamed at each other like ‘Yes, we did it! We made it!'” Jon said.
Wil explained that his reaction to Jon’s ace was not because of the point earned, but because he was getting to watch his brother on the court — playing volleyball at a higher level.
“I’m really happy that he’s there always looking out for me and knowing that I’m able to be on the court right there is the best feeling ever,” Jon said. “I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world, just being able to play on the court with my brother, especially at BYU.”
Wil said he is most excited for senior night as time moves forward in his final season as a collegiate athlete. He said he can’t wait to share the court with Jon and with their family in attendance on April 2.