It’s been two seasons since Nicolas Szerszen put on his jersey and stepped onto the court to play for Ohio State men’s volleyball, but the effect he had on the program and impact he continues to have on the sport lives on.
Already the most decorated player in Ohio State men’s volleyball history, boasting three National Player of the Year awards and back-to-back national championships, Szerszen received another honor April 5, when volleyball media organization Off the Block renamed its collegiate International Player of the Year award after him.
“I thought it was a great deal to be named after this award by this specialist panel, especially because I’ve received it many times, and it means something because it’s a national award and people from outside the country are going to get it,” Szerszen said.
Szerszen now plays for Asseco Resovia, a professional team in Rzeszow, Poland, but the French native dominated at Ohio State. Szerszen led the Buckeyes to national titles in 2016 and ’17 and set the program high mark for career kills, aces, aces per set and total attempts. His 238 career aces are No. 3 in NCAA history.
The award that will now carry his name honors the best international player in NCAA Division I and II men’s volleyball during the regular season.
“I’m just so happy we are naming this award after Nicolas Szerszen,” Off the Block associate editor Jonathan Bates said. “He was one of the nicest, coolest, most down-to-earth players I’ve ever interviewed and let alone the fact that he was just such an incredible player that obviously led his team to such great success.”
Off the Blocks’ International Player of the Year distinction, determined by a voting committee of coaches and media members, was first awarded in 2017. Szerszen took home the honor in its inaugural season.
Ohio State head coach Kevin Burch joined the Buckeye coaching staff during Szerszen’s sophomore year. Szerszen went from an honorable mention All-American his freshman year to National Player of the Year the next. It was during that time that Burch saw Szerszen’s transition to a nationally elite player.
“I asked him what his biggest change was, and he told me that, ‘This is going to sound weird, but I stopped caring,’” Burch said. “It wasn’t that he stopped caring. We started talking more, and then he said, ‘I just stopped fearing failure.’”
The choice to stop fearing failure is what led Szerszen to earn not only International Player of the Year but have it named after him.
Szerszen said he used to Google the accomplishments of award-winning volleyball players before him. It was something that motivated him to reach the standard of play that others are measured against. Now, for international collegiate players, Szerszen is the standard.
Szerszen said it’s important for young players to work as hard as possible and instead of fearing mistakes, learn from them.
“The more you miss, the better off you’ll be at the end,” Szerszen said.
When he learned that the award would bear his name, Szerszen said he immediately told his wife and called his parents.
“I wasn’t with them at the time because I’m in the U.S. right now with my wife for the summer, so they said to celebrate for us, and we did that at home with my wife’s parents,” Szerszen said.
Burch said the celebration is much deserved.
“When people think of Olympic teams, or other coaches think about international players, I think Szerszen is the first one they think of because of what he’s done and what he’s accomplished for our level of play,” Burch said.