He’s only been playing volleyball for a year now, but Windermere’s Caden Simpson already has a national title under his belt.
It can get hot under the lights when you’re on a stage that’s bigger than what you’re used to.
The mounting pressure as the game progresses can weigh heavy, as the attention of a crowd is focused on you. It’s a lot for anybody, or at least that’s what you’d think.
There on the court — playing for the AAU Boy’s Junior 14U Volleyball Championship at the Orange County Convention Center — stands Caden Simpson, alongside his teammates from the Winter Park Volleyball Club.
He’s calm, cool and collected, and despite having only started playing for the team back in March, Cadenis very much in his comfort zone — so much so that, for him, it was just a normal match.
“I practiced hard and just played how I usually play,” said Caden, a Windermere resident and future Windermere Wolverine. “My coach (has) just been teaching me, and I’ve been doing what he says and it works.
“I have a job that I have to do,” he said. “As the middle, I have to know who the other middle is on the other side of the court and follow him.”
He makes it sound easy enough, but against teams like the one WPVC beat in that AAU championship game, it’s not. Yet, still, Caden and WPVC took out the Colombian-based team to claim their title.
Just a few weeks ago — during the first week of July — he and WPVC travelled to Dallas, Texas, to compete in the USA Volleyball Jr. National Championships, which is one of the biggest tournaments in the country.
There, Simpson played in 10 total matches over the span of a couple of days — playing two to three games per day. It was a grueling event, but WPVC managed to finish in 11th place out of a field of 36 teams.
“It was really fun being in that city, playing volleyball there in a big convention center and people (are) cheering you on,” Caden said. “It was pretty fun.”
It’s crazy to think of where Caden is now when you consider that prior to his eighth-grade year at Bridgewater Middle, the only sports he had played in his life were basketball and baseball. In fact, it wasn’t until his physical education teacher — and Bridgewater’s volleyball coach — approached him about possibly playing for the team that volleyball came into his world.
Even then he was hesitant — that is, until a friend of his told him he should try out for volleyball with him.
“I practiced hard and just played how I usually play. My coach (has) just been teaching me, and I’ve been doing what he says and it works. I have a job that I have to do."
— Caden Simpson
“So we both tried out and we ended up making it, and it was just a fun season with that team — that was eighth grade (last school year),” Caden said. “We did really good that season, and it was really fun, so I wanted to play more.”
It took time during those early practices to learn the fundamentals of the sport, and just like anything, learning the rules proved to be the most complicated part for Caden.
Going into the sport, he had never even really watched volleyball, so the rules of the game were all completely foreign to him. Given enough time, however, he began to grasp the rules and gameplay, and truly started to excel at the sport.
Along with his growth as a player came the desire to play more — that’s where WPVC comes into the picture.
After Caden’s mom, Suzanne, posted some photos of him playing middle-school volleyball on Facebook, a longtime acquaintance of hers reached out and told her about WPVC. It turns out that their friend’s son was a coach with the club.
Once Caden decided to take time off from baseball in the spring, he made up his mind to give it a shot. From there he was hooked.
From a parent’s standpoint it was both a nerve wracking and exciting time, said Greg, Caden’s father.
“We were somewhat apprehensive when we saw him going in, but we know that he (has) typically done well in any sport he has played,” Greg said. “We were very excited for him to be doing something new, and to see how he was able to fit (in) with the team … and be able to go in and contribute right away.”
Since then things have gone better than expected, with Caden fitting comfortably in on the team and contributing at middle blocker. The only real question remaining is, what happens next?
Next month, he’ll be starting his freshman year at Windermere High School, and baseball and basketball are still two options that Caden is looking into — with baseball being a favorite at the moment.
“I’m going to probably play baseball, but you know, we’ll see how it works,” Caden said. “You never know — I might play volleyball. But right now I’m just going to try out for baseball.”
Around late September, WPVC holds its tryouts for the fall season, but Caden isn’t quite sure what he’ll do as it relates to the club. Right now it’s a sit-and-wait kind of approach, Greg said.