Sandburg’s John Hodul | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 30, 2013 2:25PM
As long as he can remember, John Hodul has been tall. Even in preschool, he towered over his classmates.
“I was too tall for the playground,” he said. “There was a little giraffe there, and if you were taller than the giraffe, you couldn’t use the playground equipment.”
By the time he arrived at Sandburg, Hodul was 6-7. He had tried almost every sport imaginable, including baseball, tennis, basketball and soccer.
However, one sport he had never tried was volleyball.
“I have to credit [Sandburg head coach Sean Airola] for getting me involved in volleyball,” Hodul said. “At the time, I was going to try out for the tennis team. But he convinced me to try volleyball.”
“John had never touched a volleyball before his freshman year,” Airola said. “I saw him during freshman orientation and asked him if he plays volleyball. He responded, “I could try.” He started by being the backup middle on the freshman ‘B’ team and never looked back.”
Today, Hodul is a 6-10 senior. He has already exceeded his numbers from his junior year with 143 kills and 61 blocks through 19 matches. He was an all-tournament selection at the Buffalo Grove Bison Battle and at last weekend’s Brother Rice Smack Attack.
Hodul is following in the tradition of other Sandburg players who toiled on the freshman “B” team before leaving their mark on the school’s volleyball program.
“Matt Pollock, who played at Pepperdine and is now playing professionally in Finland, played on the freshman ‘B’ team,” Hodul said. “Tom Carmody, who was on the state championship team two years ago and is now at the University of Pacific was on the freshman ‘B’ team.
“The way I see it, it’s not where you start, it what you do with the four years of high school that you have. I tried a lot of sports, but I never had the passion for any of them. Now volleyball is what I want to do for as long as I can do it.”
Hodul will continue his volleyball career at Lewis University, where he plans to major in chemistry. Like volleyball, he discovered his passion for chemistry late after taking honors chemistry as a junior.
“I just stuck with it,” Hodul said. “One of the reasons I chose Lewis is because their science department is so strong. I met one of their chemistry professors when I went for a visit and he was very helpful.”
An only child born late to parents who were only children, Hodul learned self-reliance at an early age.
“The only thing that’s beneficial about being an only child is that you learn to fend for yourself,” he said. “If you have to get something done, you have to do it yourself. You have to figure a lot of things out on your own.
“A lot of high school kids have a brother or sister who went through the system. They know the route.”
But Hodul also received a lot of help from people like the counselors at Sandburg who helped him make the right choices academically, and the coach who steered him into a sport that has helped him grow as a person and an athlete.
‘‘John Hodul is a genuine, good-hearted kid who will help anyone and expect nothing in return,” Airola said. “He is a super bright young man who is respectful, honorable and shows the highest form of character. His personal qualities far outweigh his ability to play volleyball.
“John is a good volleyball player and a better person.’’