Favorite athlete: Dennis Rodman
Favorite team: Philadelphia 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning district title during senior season.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Our setter scoring a point with his head in the PIAA playoffs.
Music on mobile device: Hip-Hop, RnB
Future plans: Make a lot of money
Words to live by: “Losers focus on winners, winners focus on winning.”
One goal before turning 30: Own a company
One thing people don’t know about me: I play viola and violin as well
By Ed Morrone
Some kids come from football families, while others are rooted in basketball or baseball. Dylan Colbert played all of those sports growing up, but he was only biding his time until he could get started following in his own family’s athletics legacy.
Colbert just graduated from Central Bucks East, where he spent the last four years on the boys volleyball team. Volleyball may not be the most mainstream or popular high school sport, but for Colbert and his family, it is in their blood and intertwined in their DNA.
“I’m a third-generation player,” Colbert said. “My grandpa was the driving force in getting me into it, as he is the stem of the sport in our family. I played all the other sports growing up because volleyball isn’t available in Pennsylvania until fifth grade; I did football, basketball, baseball, all the big ones, but I knew I’d play at some point. It’s just tough to find a program when you’re really young.”
Once he turned 10 and attended his first volleyball camp, Colbert was off to the races. He participated in “open court” games with varsity players from East and knew immediately that he couldn’t wait to follow in his family’s volleyball footsteps.
Colbert rose through the ranks as an outside hitter, the position on the court usually reserved for the tallest players who attack the ball at the net. Colbert would eventually sprout to his current height of 6-foot-5, but in his freshman year at East, head coach Rob Minschwaner had an opening for a middle hitter following an injury and asked the youngster if he would be willing to switch positions in order to fill in.
Colbert had mostly played on the outside, and as a varsity swing player that year, he was still getting action at outside hitter on the jayvee team. However, like any true competitor, Colbert wanted to play on the main stage, so he accepted the responsibility and helped lead the Patriots to a 15-6 overall record that season, tied for second place in the SOL Continental Conference.
“I remember having a conversation with my grandpa, and he told me – ‘Do anything you can to get on to the court as a varsity player at any position,’” he recalled. “Our starting middle had gotten hurt, and I think Rob thought I hated it, but honestly I loved it.
“I took it for what it was. Even though it was a different position, I was still starting some matches as a freshman. It was great for me developmentally, and I got to transition right into being a somebody within the program, even though it was my first year. It was a rite of passage and made me fit in a bit more than I probably would have otherwise.”
Colbert said he relied heavily on his senior teammates to teach him the right footwork, and Minschwaner was impressed with the freshman’s ability to step right in and be a solid varsity contributor.
“You always have a greater appreciation for what everyone else is doing for you when you’re playing another position,” Minschwaner said. “Dylan learned how hard you have to work in the middle every single game. He had played the outside coming in, so maybe he wasn’t too thrilled, but he wanted to play as a freshman kid on varsity. He ended up playing so well so quickly in the middle that I couldn’t justify playing him on jayvee as much.
“He picked up the footwork quickly and worked very hard. Most kids, it takes them awhile to build up the endurance with all the running and jumping required, but he was effective right away. I think he really benefitted from playing multiple positions.”
Colbert shifted back to his natural position for sophomore season, and it was business as usual for the dominant outside hitter. This time, East finished 17-6 overall and 13-3 in SOL Continental, tied for second in the conference.
As a junior, Colbert guided the Patriots to a 19-5 overall record and 15-1 mark in conference play. The team was the district runner-up and advanced to the state quarterfinals. Colbert was named to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association all-state first team, the only junior from District One to earn that honor.
However, Colbert wasn’t satisfied, and actually said his junior season, the best of his career to date, completely humbled him.
“I’d say we underachieved, just because that team was so stacked with talent and I thought it would be our biggest window,” Colbert said. “My biggest takeaway was you can’t expect to lead a team playing hero ball. I had arguably too much confidence. My ego had gotten in the way of playing the best I could, so junior year was a reality check.
“I came into senior season wanting to put the team first and myself second. Junior year was just a big learning year for me, and I wish I could play with all of those guys again because it was such a talented group.”
Luckily for Colbert, his assumption that junior year was his best chance for championship success was miscalculated. The 2019 campaign ended up becoming Colbert’s favorite, and with good reason: the Patriots went 19-0 en route to their second consecutive SOL Continental title, then finished what they had started the previous year by winning the district championship. Colbert and company may have lost in the first round of the state tournament, but after the district crown, anything else was just the cherry on top.
“Looking back, senior year was the biggest achievement,” Colbert said. “That team became a well-oiled machine. Better than winning a district championship, to me, was having 14 guys who wanted to play together. Everyone knew their role. We had a ton of fun and played with confidence, and everything just clicked. We all put an effort into being better teammates, going out there putting out for the guys around me and not just myself.”
Colbert described a truly dominant outside hitter as someone who wants to make the play with the game on the line, likening his approach to that of a top wide receiver in football. To succeed, an outside hitter needs to be “cold blooded mentally,” so it was no surprise to hear that Colbert idolizes professional athletes such as Chicago Bulls legend Dennis Rodman, Golden State Warriors bruiser Draymond Green and current scrappy Philadelphia 76er Mike Scott.
“That’s the sort of athlete I always wanted to be,” he said. “All the hustle, all the grit. If someone says something to a teammate that they don’t like, they’ll go right back at that guy. The tough guys are the ones I’ve always strived to be like.”
Off the volleyball court, Colbert boasted a 4.1 GPA and enjoyed classes like Chemistry, Algebra and Calculus, “because they were like puzzles where I can visualize the end goal and what I wanted to get out of it.” Colbert admitted he submitted his Penn State application a little later than he should have, so he’s planning on spending a year or two at Bucks County Community College with the goal of transferring to a four-year college thereafter.
“I ended up making the right choice by accident,” he said. “I didn’t think I was ready to go away to college in another state. Being home for another year with my family and friends will help, and I’m looking forward to processing everything. It will be an easier transition for me to go to Bucks for a year or two, then pick a college that I’m both happy with and mature enough to go to.”
Colbert isn’t sure yet exactly what career he wants to pursue, though he said Internet and Media Marketing were areas of intrigue, mainly because they are industries that will continue to grow as technology and the media are constantly evolving. Colbert said he’d love to start his own business one day.
As for volleyball, he said he’s likely finished with the competitive aspect of the sport, though he might still pursue it leisurely in beach volleyball tournaments.
“I feel content with how my eight years of competitive court volleyball turned out, and in my mind, I finished on top,” Colbert said. “The dream team we had this year came out of nowhere. I did not expect this team to be better than last year’s, and with everyone such great teammates this season, we’re all content with how it ended.”
Outside of volleyball, Colbert loves to create and play music. He started playing the viola in fourth grade before later transitioning to the violin.
“It’s never something I’ve taken or pursued too seriously,” he said. “But it’s my favorite hobby in the world.”
For head coach Minschwaner, the 2020 season will surely look a lot different without Colbert on the outside as he attempts to assemble a team to defend the district crown.
“I love that kid,” Minschwaner said. “The willingness to take the last big shot is so rare; Dylan is not only willing to be that guy, he wants to be that guy. He’s a real leader who shows how much he cares. I love his willingness to put forth his opinion, but more than anything, his ability to listen and be coached. With how much he cares, you always want someone like that. You coach because you’re passionate about the game, so it’s a big deal to have someone who is as passionate as I am. He has that.”
Minschwaner said that in the East program, nobody is ever really out of it. He mentioned a current assistant coach who is a former player and said Colbert is always welcome to come back and help out in any capacity he can.
Colbert himself joked that at the team banquet, he told all the holdover players that he was ready to come back next season and help coach.
“One of my favorite aspects about this program is guys from five years ago coming back, and even though the freshmen have no idea who they are, the current players and alumni gel right away,” Colbert said. “I love that camaraderie. I’m really going to miss it, as well as the thrillers, the really close games where all the money’s made. That rush of winning in the fifth set, the intensity of it all, that’s the kind of stuff I’ll miss the most, because that’s not something that’s ever going to be matched again.”