“No one really knows me like my brother”: Will and Alex Rottman take to the court

April 18, 2023, 10:51 p.m.

Stanford men’s volleyball has a history of siblings playing on the team together. In 1999, two pairs of siblings, the Palacios and Griffiths, were even on the team simultaneously. At the time of this article’s publication, 23 pairs of siblings have played for the Cardinal over the past thirty years.

After more than a decade without a pair of brothers playing for the Cardinal men’s volleyball squad, when Kawika ’10 and Erik ’12 Shoji were teammates, the roster now boasts another pair of brothers: senior and freshman outside hitters Will and Alex Rottman. Going into postseason play this week, the team has an overall attack percentage of .542 percentage, and Will leads the team with a total of 271 kills.


The brothers come from a family with a rich volleyball history. Alex and Will’s father, David, was himself a two-time All-American at UCSB, where he was also teammates with current Stanford head coach John Kosty. David then went on to represent the U.S. on the National Team, play professionally in France and compete on the AVP beach volleyball tour. Will and Alex’s uncle, Steve, competed at USC and on the AVP Tour as well.

“It is a highly competitive family,” Kosty said. “But also there is a highly nurturing part of their family too.” 

Despite their father and uncle playing volleyball at a high level, Alex and Will said they never felt pressured to take up the sport themselves. Nonetheless, they credit their father for instilling a love for the game early on.

“[My father] would always take me down to the beach at like seven in the morning back in Santa Barbara,” Will said. “And I’d watch him play around and that’s kind of how I got into it.”

Both Alex and Will are highly athletic, having played a variety of sports growing up. Before committing to volleyball in middle school, Alex played soccer, basketball and baseball. Will was also a devoted basketball player, competing in both volleyball and basketball until the end of high school. While basketball was the first sport he was passionate about, Will decided by the time he was in middle school (just like his brother) to dedicate his athleticism to volleyball.

For the Rottman family, it’s a point of pride to see the brothers play on a team together. Alex and Will’s grandfather is a lifelong Stanford fan, who, according to Will, comes to all their games. Their 20 or so cousins have also supported the brothers in the stands. But Will emphasizes the caring aspect of his family, adding that above everything, his parents just want him to be happy.

Coach Kosty’s commentary

Although the brothers are both highly competitive, Kosty notes that “they are two different types of players playing the same position.” He describes Will as more expressive and outgoing, while he has found Alex to be more reserved. “But you can see it in his eyes and how he celebrates with the team that he is very competitive,” Kosty said of the freshman.

Despite Alex and Will’s contrasting personalities, Kosty doesn’t coach the two any differently, claiming that any viewers of practices wouldn’t even know that Alex and Will are brothers. The brothers spend time together, but don’t act as a unit separate from the team.

Kosty also commented on the brothers’ relationship. “[It] stems from the competitiveness on the court, to the family off the court, to sometimes the dynamic of the family on the court,” Kosty said.

In Kosty’s words, the familial aspect of Alex and Will’s relationship has helped both of them improve as athletes. And while the team in itself is a kind of family, having two actual family members together has brought a newfound sense of support.

Volleyball players
Will (left) and Alex (right) during a home match against Concordia on April 1, 2023. This is the fourth collegiate season for Will, and the first for Alex. (Photo: GLEN MITCHELL/ISI Photos)

Playing on the same team

Although Will and Alex played beach volleyball together a few times this past summer, and have peppered back and forth growing up, they’ve never competed on the same team before due to being two-and-a-half years apart in age. This current season marks the first time.

For younger brother Alex, Will’s presence has been largely helpful in navigating his freshman year as a volleyball player.

“[Will’s] given me a lot of tips on what I should and shouldn’t do. A lot of the freshmen have to figure it out for themselves,” Alex said. “So in terms of volleyball, it goes down to the littlest things like, pay more attention to your arm… or whatever it is. It’s just very helpful.”

Having his older brother by his side as he enters the collegiate game has also been emotionally reassuring.

“I think you can go to your brother and talk about more personal stuff, is a big thing. When you’re on the team alone, you kind of just have to figure out stuff on your own. So that’s a big advantage,” Alex said.  “Honestly, if I’m feeling anything emotional, or mental that just isn’t sitting right with me. I can talk to him about it. And he’s gone through somewhat the same experience.”

When asked about how he is supporting Will, Alex believes it’s through his frankness.

“Yeah, I feel like I can be super candid with Will, because I’m his brother. I can be super straight up with him,” Alex said. “The other guys sometimes tiptoe around the reality sometimes. So maybe I’ve helped him in that aspect a little and kind of just got straight to the chase.”

Will also feels that the brothers have helped one another in preserving identities separate from volleyball and not letting their performances on court define them.

“[I]t brings me back to my roots a little bit and I feel like we all have friends and relationships on the team and some of my teammates are my closest friends and like they know me very well,” Will said. “But no one really knows me like my brother and I’d say that’s true for me to Alex as well.”

Alex said that he has enjoyed seeing his brother’s role within the team dynamic.

“Will is super fiery, and I admire that about him. I definitely say we’re different,” Alex said. “I like staying composed and calm a little bit more. But that being said, I think sometimes the fire gets out of me and we’ll go back and forth.”

Alex and Will were also able to speak on each other’s special talents outside of volleyball. According to Alex, Will is a very talented singer. When asked to comment on it, Will said his brother brought it up because he’s very bad at it.

When asked to share Alex’s skills, Will replied that his younger brother has a talent for dancing, specifically belly dancing. He also said that Alex is a strong baseball player.

But going into the MPSF Tournament and postseason play, which opens on Wednesday for 3-seed Stanford (13-12, 6-6 MPSF) against 6-seed USC (10-15, 3-9 MPSF), both Will and Alex are grateful to have their brother alongside them. As Will put it, “you’re not gonna lose yourself when you have a sibling on.”

Bridget (she/her) is a writer for The Daily’s news, sports, and arts and life sections. Contact her at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.Evy is a writer for the sports section. Contact her at sports 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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