By Alison Myoraku
Special to the Almanac
Most young children dedicate their early years to master the art of walking, but for Jordan and James Shaw, even walking fell second to their true passion: volleyball.
From a young age, the siblings were content with bumping around a volleyball and participating in Shaw family games.
This comes as no surprise, as they are the children of volleyball coaching legend Don Shaw, and his wife Carolyn, of Woodside.
From 1980 to 2007, Don focused his energy on coaching the women's volleyball team at Stanford University, and later the men's team as well, leading the former to 10 final fours, eight championship matches, and four NCAA championships. His overall collegiate record of 523-154 speaks for itself.
"They would come to Stanford practices with me, grab a ball, and go down the hall where they'd start practicing and playing together," Don recalls.
This early exposure to the sport, coupled with guidance from their seasoned father, allowed both children to excel on the numerous teams they played on.
Jordan, the eldest, started playing volleyball on a club team when she was 14, and went on to play at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View.
According to Mr. Shaw, girls usually start playing on teams around age 12, but he disagrees with this practice. Starting too young can lead to premature injuries later in life, he points out. Also, he wanted volleyball to be something his children chose to participate in, not something their parents forced them into.
Currently, Jordan attends Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, where she will be a sophomore come fall. After attending try-outs, she landed a spot as an outside hitter on the National USA Women's Junior A2 Volleyball Team.
This team is generally made up of women who recently finished their senior year in high school or their freshman year in college, Don says. The national team, for women out of college, competes in the Olympics, while the junior national team prepares to advance to the national level.
On July 17, the Junior A2 team competed in the 7th Annual Global Challenge in Croatia, where, after playing teams from Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, and Romania, the team triumphantly seized first place.
"She's a leader, and one of the most experienced players on the team," Don says of his daughter. "She doesn't always stand out to a point where she gets recognition, but coaches really appreciate her because she's a solid player."
Jordan is not the only member of the family traveling internationally to play volleyball. Younger brother James, who is 6-foot 7-inches tall, has seen his fair share of tournaments, the most recent in Mexicali, Mexico.
James began his volleyball career at the age of 6 when he attended the Stanford boys volleyball camp. He joined the Bay to Bay club at age 12, and later earned a place as a setter on the varsity team at Saint Francis High School, where he will be a senior this fall. Since his freshman year, the team has consistently placed third in the CCS championships.
This summer, the Youth National Team selected James to be one of 12 players to participate in the Pan American Cup in Mexicali. The team competed on July 16, and won bronze after battling it out with the Mexican team.
James and his teammates head down to San Diego for training before embarking on a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) world championships for youth under 19. The competition will be held Aug. 19-28.
James says the most important part of volleyball isn't winning tournaments, but getting to know his teammates.
"My favorite part of volleyball has to be the community of the sport," he says. "Men's volleyball is definitely not a particularly popular sport in America, so the community of volleyball players is much more tight-knit."
Despite the small population of male volleyball players, the Mountain View Volleyball Club (MVVC), headed by Don Shaw, attracted enough players for eight teams in just two years. James plays at MVVC, on a team coached by his father, which won two silver metals earlier this year at tournaments in Southern California.
With college in his near future, James is currently contemplating a decision that plagues all seniors. While he has been in contact with UC Irvine, UC Los Angeles, Pepperdine, University of Southern California and Pennsylvania State, Stanford University possesses the greatest pull.
"I intend to end up at Stanford and hope to bring Stanford another national championship," James says.
As Jordan continues her career at St. Mary's and James prepares for college, their father can enjoy the accomplishments of his children that are yet to come.
"I'm very proud of how they are as both people and players," he concludes. "They've good team players, and are always solid and consistent."