Above the net: Pierre LAGNY tells us about 10 years of passion for volleyball

Just like successful studies, high-level sport is demanding and requires determination. Pierre LAGNY, a student in the Master Cycle of the Grande École Program at IÉSEG, has spent a decade perfecting his skills on the volleyball court. It is with pride that he shares his story with us, from his beginnings to today, including his international experience.

Pierre, you have been playing volleyball at a high level for 10 years, can you tell us more?
It all started in secondary school, where I was spotted in the schoolyard. I went to school in an institution that put a lot of emphasis on volleyball, in particular by making several courts available to students. Being part of the school’s sports association, I played regularly under the supervision of coaches who were professional players from ‘Paris Volley’, a Parisian club which trains young people to become professional players. Following the advice of my coach, who detected real potential in me, I registered to take the ‘Paris Volley‘ selections, where I was accepted. At that time, I was twelve, and in my second year of secondary school…

What does playing volleyball at a high level concretely mean?
I would say first of all that in my case, there was a before and after high school. When I was in secondary school and then in high school, I was part of the ‘Paris Volley’ club. Then, after high school, I changed clubs to join ‘Paris Amicale Camou‘, another volleyball club in Paris.
I currently play in ‘Nationale 2’ (that is to say the 4th French Division), whereas before the COVID period, when I was still in high school, I was a ‘Pro B’ aspirant, playing in ‘Nationale 1’ (the 3rd French Division, the ‘Pro B’ being the 2nd Division). Which concretely means that, throughout my youth, I had 4 trainings a week (in the evening), as well as two matches per weekend. I also wanto to special training camps during school holidays…
The life of a high-level athlete is not easy, especially for a young person in secondary or high school, because I ultimately had very little time off the court to devote to my family and friends. In addition, playing at a high level requires constant involvement, including a healthy lifestyle and a specific diet to follow in order to stay in shape and perform well on the court. Now that I am playing in ‘Nationale 2’, I have lightened the pace, with only 3 training sessions per week and one match every weekend.

Would you have liked to become a professional player?
It would have been difficult for several reasons… First, I play an attacking position, but with my physical condition (I am ‘only’ 6’2″) I can easily be in difficulty because most of my opponents are about 6’7″. To perform as a professional player, I would therefore have had to change position and become a libero, that is to say move into the defense zone. However, what I really love most in this sport is to spike…
Furthermore, in France, making a living from volleyball is very difficult. Apart from ‘Pro A’ (the 1st French Division), players are not or poorly paid. If we compare to Russia, Poland or even Italy, we have very good volleyball players in France, but our championship is not yet as well developed and structured as in these countries.
Finally, and this is natural, my parents pushed me to pursue higher education to protect myself and not bet everything on volleyball… and they were right!

You had the chance to experience playing volleyball in the United States…
Indeed! I did a university exchange in California, at UC Riverside, where I had the opportunity to play in the American Premier League. It was a renewal for me. I learned to approach volleyball in a different way: in the United States, sports are extremely important. It is actually considered to be just as important as studying. Moreover, thanks to volleyball, I was able to join events of a student fraternity, which absolutely would not have been possible without this sport which created a connection between us. This gave a whole new dimension to my international experience. I also really appreciated the very positive mentality of the Americans, who see no problem in failure. On the contrary, they consider it as an opportunity to identify what and how to improve later.

High-level athletes develop top physical conditions, but they also need solid mental conditions… What does it look like in your daily life?
Indeed, volleyball (but it is true for high-level sport in general) is 20% physical, and 80% mental! What I noticed with my team, for example, is that when we won the first set of a match, we usually lost the next one because we were too confident… We were overconfident and relaxed a little too much, which was detrimental to us.
Volleyball has brought me a lot of positive things in different aspects of my life. I naturally have a competitive spirit but I developed it even more through volleyball: I never give up. When I have a project to carry out, I see it through to the end. I also strengthened my self-control and my ability to manage stressful situations, which I couldn’t do before.
Finally, the fact that it is a team sport allowed me to develop my ability to work in a group, because it provides a vision of how a community works, we are interested in each individual. I think that in general, a person practicing a team sport has greater ease working in a team. It is therefore very useful in class, just as in a company.

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