In less than two weeks two Fort Campbell Soldiers will compete for their slot on the All Army men’s volleyball team at the trial camp beginning April 16 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Billy Womble, garrison athletics and intramural program coordinator, said Spc. Shaun Kaufman, 39th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, and Pfc. Johnray Lagmen, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Abn. Div. Artillery Brigade, 101st Abn. Div., are the first male Soldiers from Fort Campbell to try out for the team in the past six years.

“This is an important milestone for Fort Campbell,” Womble said. “It is great. [Volleyball] is expanding and we have seen several Soldiers take interest in it. It takes a lot of commitment to be able to get to the All Army level. Any Soldier who give that commitment deserves the chance to try out. We wish them the best and hope they make the team.”

Kaufman and Lagmen said their goal is to set a high standard for male volleyball players at Fort Campbell, especially since they are the first.

“We want to go out there and raise the stakes,” Kaufman said.

The specialist

Between field training exercises, garrison circumstances and a nine-month deployment to Iraq in 2015, Kaufman has not been able to try-out for the All Army men’s volleyball team, even though he has wanted to join the team since he joined the Army about four years ago. Kaufman first heard about the team from his Army recruiter. Now that the audition is rapidly approaching, Kaufman is grateful for the opportunity.

“This is a huge honor for me. I’m going to take every single moment that I can to appreciate it and give it my all,” Kaufman said. “I love volleyball because it’s a team sport. It’s a noncontact sport so I don’t get hurt. To have the opportunity to be a part of the All-Army team is very much a privilege for me.”

As a child, Kaufman began playing volleyball with his father, Erich Kaufman.

“I feel like I’ve been playing volleyball my whole life,” Kaufman said. “Growing up I lived on the beach in Mexico. I would surf in the morning, go to school, and then my dad would pick me up from school and we would play volleyball in the evening.”

Kaufman’s volleyball career extended through high school. He also has played for club teams.

Kaufman said he learned a lot about perfecting his serve from his father. His favorite serve is the “jump serve” because it is an intimidating power move.

“Like my dad always says, you have to toss the ball in the right spot and you have to time it very well. If you throw it too far in front of you, you are going to mistime it or if you throw it behind you, you are going to hit it behind your head. It’s all about having perfect timing and being persistent,” he said.

As a strong offensive player, Kaufman said he brings drive and confidence to the court. He enjoys serving as a right-side hitter, scoring points and taking hits for the team.

“My strategy is to remain calm and to stay focused. Most importantly I want to make sure that I am having fun, because anytime I stress out about volleyball too much, I don’t play as well as I usually do. So for me, remembering to have fun with it, really is key,” he said.

To prepare for the trials, Kaufman has trained with Nathan Wiltshire, a volleyball coach and Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association referee. Kaufman regularly trains about three hours per day.

“I put in about two hours a day at the gym. I do a lot of leg work so I can improve my jump and increase my stamina,” he said. “I also have a couple of cheat days, where it’s not really anything to do with eating or metabolism or anything like that, I would just go out for a drive or go hiking, or just go out and do something to relax my mind and ease my body. I wanted to still be focused, but to be able to rest and clear my head for the next day of training.”

Volleyball is a mind game, Kaufman said.

“I’ve been around the block with this sport – I’ve coached it, I’ve played it. I’ve played with a variety of players from all over the world at all skill levels, so I have a lot of experience, and I’m daily working to develop the talent to my highest-level of ability,” he said.

The private first class

As a preteen playing volleyball for his middle school in Guam, Lagmen never imagined he would one day have the opportunity to play volleyball at the Army level.

“I’m really excited about all of this, but also kind of nervous, but mostly excited,” he said. “I’m nervous because I don’t know who I’m going up against at the try out. It’s going to be people from all over the world with a whole range of skills, so that’s a whole other level of intimidation.”

Lagmen is the only person in his Family who plays volleyball. He continued to play competitively in high school. As a sophomore he competed on the USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior National Championship team.

“In high school I played as a utility, which meant I played in almost every position, but if I had the option I would probably choose to be an outside hitter,” he said.

After high school, Lagmen joined the Army. He has continued to play volleyball recreationally. Lagmen applied for the All Army men’s volleyball team to develop his skills on the court and to stay competitive.  “My strategy for the try out is simply to just play,” he said. “I’m going to play my heart out and do my best.”

Kaufman said Lagmen is a fierce defensive player.

“Lagmen’s defense is on point,” Kaufman said. “He moves very quickly. He stays low to the ground. His passes are very precise and his digs are outstanding.”

Lagmen said he is highly critical of himself, especially when it comes to volleyball.

“My weakness would probably be that my hits are not always consistent, but I’m working hard on it and I’m a lot better after I’ve warmed up,” Lagmen said.

Volleyball is a physically and mentally challenging sport, Lagmen said.

“Volleyball is a sport where you cannot sit around. You have to always be on your toes. You’re always jumping up into the air. You’re always passing the ball,” he said.

To prepare for the trials, Lagmen plays volleyball recreationally at the Staff Sgt. Eric B. Shaw Physical Fitness Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Physical training has kept him toned for the competition.

Lagmen’s passion for volleyball will make him a strong asset to the All Army men’s volleyball team, he said.

“I just really want this,” he said. “I really do.”