Meet Aaron Koubi

Aaron Koubi is a triple threat. French, intelligent, and an amazing athlete. UCI is very lucky to have him. Originally from Cannes, France, he moved here to play the sport he loves while simultaneously pursuing an education. Although he just finished getting his bachelor’s degree in business economics, he will be continuing at UCI in the fall for his master’s. When it came to choosing UCI, as a beach lover, the sound of living in Newport with his friends is what sealed the deal. He is still in the works of figuring out his future plans and whether or not he wants play volleyball professionally. Aaron isn’t about the money, the glitz, and the glam. He is purely about the experience, which makes sense because he was very humble and easy to talk to. Aaron has lots to offer and will continue to shine while playing for the Anteaters. No matter what he chooses to do post-master’s, he will be amazing at it. For Aaron, the sky's the limit.

Tell me about how you first got started playing volleyball.

I started playing volleyball when I was five. I played because both of my brothers played. I have memories of me going to their practices and watching them play in France. I wanted to do that so I started playing with them and never really stopped.  

Did you always know you wanted to play at the college level? How did you end up at UCI?

In France there is no college level, it’s only professional. So when I started I wanted to play at the professional level. But then when I graduated high school, I wanted to go to college. In France you can play while in college but you have to play pro. The problem is they don’t go together so it is really hard to balance. Volleyball doesn't care about your school and your school doesn't care about volleyball, which is why I wanted to come here. I knew they had college volleyball over here but I didn’t know how good it was. I sent out emails to a bunch of coaches but most of them didn’t take me seriously because they probably get those emails all the time. Since I was on the national French team, I already had videos of me playing online which I sent to the coaches. Even with that, some coaches still wouldn’t reply. I ended up knowing a guy who used to be a French player at UCI who was really good. He introduced me to the coach by email. But then the coach from UCI transferred to UCLA at the time I was trying to get to the US. I met up with some players and coaches and then got recruited. UCLA and UCI both made me offers. I chose UCI.

A lot of people wish they were student athletes. What are the major perks? Explain to us what we’re missing out on.

It’s funny because sometimes we wish we were just normal students. If you think about what’s cool about being a student athlete, it’s playing games and supporting your school. No one sees how every morning you have to wake up and work hard. When everyone else is in spring break having fun, you have to wake up at 8am and do drills that your coach decided to do. I am playing in games so it’s fun, but imagine someone who is not playing. He is putting all that work in and not getting to play so it can get annoying sometimes. For some student athletes they have to practice and never get to play in the games which is the fun part, you know?

Would you consider yourself competitive?

Oh yeah, too competitive. I hate losing more than I like winning. I get super angry and frustrated very fast, especially with myself. It’s hard to put the blame on someone else. I used to do that before but I think that is something young players do. You realize you can make a difference by changing yourself too.

Have you had any major injuries while playing?

I was injured my first two years. I got here with a shoulder pain and it ended up getting super bad so I had to get surgery. I got here and didn't play for two and a half years. Last year, at the end of the season, the last ten games were my first appearance in the games. I was able to end the season last year and then started my first season this year.

Are you nervous about playoffs coming up? Walk us through your emotions going into it and the preparation it takes.

Well this year it’s cool because everyone makes playoffs. Last year we had to make it, this year we knew we were going to make it. We knew that whatever happens before the season doesn’t really matter, only playoffs matter. You can be super bad before but win playoffs and then you get to the national championship. We know that playoffs is going to be our most important moment. So everything we do, everything we practice for, is for that moment. For sure there is pressure but it’s good, it’s not a bad thing. Good players play well in those moments. It’s an opportunity to rise and be who we can really be as a team. If we’re ever going to play really well, it’s going to be during playoffs and during finals. So I think that’s exciting. Our preparation? I mean our preparation was all year long. We’re not trying to get better or do anything different. We’re trying to stay where we are because we know we are ready. I think we’re in a good position for playoffs.

UCI’s MVB has a massive following! You guys take pictures with fans after games, you give autographs, you have fan accounts, etc. You’re basically like celebrities. Why do you think that is?

I think it’s because we’re one of the only sports that competes for national championships. Volleyball at UCI is a big thing. Volleyball in California is cultural so it has history.

What thoughts are going through your head when serving a game point? It all rides on you. Just watching, I get nervous for you guys.

Everyone handles it differently. Personally, I think the best way to go about it is not to look at the score and just do your serve. If anything go a little more, you can’t go half way. If you’re scared and you go half, 70% of the time you’re going to miss, and if you put it in, it’s going to be easy. I would rather have someone who misses while trying hard instead of someone who goes easy. At that level, if you serve an easy ball, the other team is going to score. Our coach used to tell us to use our nerves. At first I didn’t understand what he was saying then it happened to me. When you're nervous and scared, you can hear better, see better, hit harder, and jump higher. If you use your nerves in the right way, it can help because it’s like you have superpowers. It is all about mindset. Most guys out there get scared and it has the reverse effect.

Let's talk about your team’s Instagram account, “thevolleyboiz.” How did that come about and who is behind it?

Wow it’s been a while since we’ve done that. It’s actually me that’s doing it. Last year Tamir, Thomas, and I, the three foreigners, decided to do it. We called it something with UCI in the name. We got in trouble because we weren’t allowed to represent UCI since it’s unofficial. So we had to change the name to “thevolleyboiz” and say that it was not official. It just started as posting funny pictures, stories, and captions. We were doing it together but then they left.

Rapid Fire:

Best instagram account to follow?

thevolleyboiz

Go to drink at a bar?

Vodka Water

Favorite app on your phone?

Instagram

What are you a closet fan of?

Photography

Who are you listening to right now?

Post Malone

Last person you texted?

You

Which teammate of yours is the best to follow on social media?

@tuckerpikula

(Aaron & the one and only Instagram king, Tucker)

If you want your Instagram feed to instantly become a million times better, make sure to follow thevolleyboiz, Aaron, and most importantly, Tucker!

A very special thank you to Aaron for taking part in this interview.