Although Thailand native Win Kittivatcharapong didn’t step on American soil until this past August, the freshman said playing for the Emerson volleyball team has made his transition smoother.
“The lifestyle, weather, and food were big adjustments,” Kittivatcharapong said. “I really like Asian food—and, wait, let me try to convert it to Fahrenheit—it’s about 70 degrees in Thailand right now.”
Kittivatcharapong, who attended an international school with mostly American faculty, said he started playing volleyball back in seventh grade. At that time, he wasn’t quite a huge fan of the game.
“I had a passion for soccer,” Kittivatcharapong, a marketing communication major, said. “But, after that year, my coach recommended that I keep playing volleyball, as I was quite tall.”
Kittivatcharapong currently stands at 6-foot-4. Because of his height, he was asked to transition from his high school position of outside hitter, to a different role as a middle blocker.
“He plays with a lot of energy,” head coach Ben Read said. “The kid’s got a real hop in his step.”
Read praised his player for his standout game against Johnson & Wales University on Feb. 11. Win totaled a career-high 11 kills in the five-set loss.
The coaching staff is slowly seeing improvement in Kittivatcharapong’s game, according to Read.
“He’s got a whip of an arm,” Read said.
By the end of his sophomore year in high school, Kittivatcharapong said his volleyball coach and high school counselor urged him to write to college coaches about potentially playing at the next level. The opportunity of getting an American education and competing athletically at the same time was tough to pass up, he said.
“Each game, my dad would film me from the stands, and we ended up putting together a mixtape of highlights that we sent to American coaches,” Kittivatcharapong said. “Emerson showed the strongest interest.”
Kittivatcharapong is also an integral part of the team’s chemistry.
“Win’s got a really powerful swing,” teammate Stig Regan, a sophomore visual and media arts major, said. “He’s a force in the middle.”
Although his teammate said it’s tough to transition from one culture to another, Regan said he believes that Kittivatcharapong has settled in nicely and now truly feels at home.
“Win’s a character, but everybody loves him,” Regan said.
Kittivatcharapong believes that his teammates played a big part in easing his transition.
“My teammates are great,” Kittivatcharapong said with a big smile. “They’ve been very supportive the whole year.”
Whether it be grabbing a bite to eat together, or watching Star Wars, the teammates share a bond that goes beyond the court, according to Kittivatcharapong. His roommates, Jacob DiTore and Mark Piorkowski, are the only other freshmen on the men’s volleyball team.
“It’s cool to room with teammates,” Kittivatcharapong said. “They’re great guys. Teamwork is the most important thing in sports.”
Read said that since Kittivatcharapong is still in his first year, he’s still searching for a role within the team.
“I expect him to rise to the occasion,” Read said. “How well he and the other freshmen play will dictate how well the team does this year.”
Even though he moved to the United States just six months ago, Kittivatcharapong is doing a tremendous job adjusting to its culture, according to Read.
“He speaks perfect English,” Read said. “Although the volleyball terminology is different here, he has adjusted very quickly.”
Regan said his teammate, who typically towers over the competition, has been a valuable offensive threat.
“His biggest strength right now is attacking,” Regan said. “When he gets his shot, he’ll bury the ball.”
Emerson (3-6, 0-2) hosts Newbury College (2-8, 0-2) tonight at 6 p.m.