Volleyball has always been a big part of the Gehman family of New Jerusalem. Mom and dad met while playing the game, and daughter Chynna was an All-State selection while playing on the Brandywine Heights High School team in 2009.
Logan Gehman, a 16-year-old, was set to play his sophomore season on the Brandywine Heights team when everything changed for the family. Logan’s father Doug was killed in an accident while attempting to cut down a tree in a bucket truck 40 feet off the ground. The tree fell his way and knocked him out of the bucket. Doug was taken to the hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Logan and his grandfather were both there to witness the accident.
For Logan, the loss was especially tough. He and his father had a close relationship, Doug was more than just a father to Logan, he was his inspiration.
“My dad called me his buddy because we liked to do things together,” said Logan. “He worked hard, but always made time for me. Whether it was playing games, having campfires in the backyard, taking late night dips in the pool, or even just exploring places that we traveled to, we always had that special bond.
“My father was such a hard worker, wasting no time in life. He made me want to work harder to excel in volleyball and in life. I admired his work ethic. He was so good at what he did and made me want to do the same. He was always supportive of my love for the game.”
It was a devastating blow to the family. How do you recover from a tragedy like this? For the Gehman family, that answer would be with volleyball.
Both Chynna and Logan are very serious about the sport. Not only have they both played on school and club teams, but they take every opportunity to play in volleyball tournaments in the area and beyond.
The two played as partners on grass (two-on-two) tournaments, successfully competing against opponents in their 20s and 30s. One of the first tournaments they played in was at Sportsfest. They also played in the “Susquehanna Smash” and the “Pottstown Rumble”.
“We always made it out of pool play and got into semifinal matches multiple times,” said Logan. “We make a good team.”
But there is only so much competition in this part of the country. Chynna had suggested going out to the west coast where they can play against much better competition and improve their game.
“I always thought she was crazy,” said Logan. “But then we got more into volleyball and the thought didn’t seem so crazy anymore. If you wanted to be the best volleyball player you can be, the east coast is not the place to be.”
Logan is one volleyball player who wants to be the best he can be. He has Olympic aspirations and he knew his best shot at reaching that goal would be to play on the west coast.
After his father died, the decision became that much easier. He not only wanted to better his volleyball game, he wanted a fresh start in another part of the country.
So in August, Chynna and Logan flew out to Redondo Beach, California, to find some fun and a lot of great volleyball competition. Mom Tracy stayed home to take care of some business, but flew out at the beginning of October to join her son and daughter.
A real estate agent back in Pennsylvania, Tracy hopes to find a job in the same field out there, but will have to get a license to sell in the state of California.
As for Logan, he couldn’t have arrived in California at a better time. He went right to work, playing on the Redondo Beach High School team, then joined the first Redondo Beach High School Beach Volleyball squad. It was the first season for the league.
“At 11 years old Logan was driven as an athlete,” said his mom Tracy. “He’s also been a very good teammate. All of his coaches have told me that. He’s a very teachable kid and has been a good leader on every team he has played on. He’s had to grow up faster than most kids in a lot of ways. I think it shows on the court.”
In just his first year playing beach volleyball, Logan, still a sophomore, made the JV team, which quite an accomplishment going up against much more seasoned and experienced year-round players who have grown up in the volleyball hotbed of southern California.
“It was a tough adjustment at first,” said Logan. “I eventually got into the swing of things. The beach volleyball was an especially hard adjustment. It took a lot of training and hard work, but now I like it more than indoor volleyball.”
Logan was invited to play for Redondo Beach High School in the first high school beach volleyball tournament ever played in California. His team swept through the field to win the tournament championship.
“It was a really good experience,” said Logan. “I just love to play volleyball and to playing it at this level is a lot of fun.”
Despite his death, Doug will always be an inspiration for Logan. His memory spurs Logan on in life and volleyball.
“After experiencing loss, it makes me want to make the most out of life and live every moment like it’s my last,” said Logan. “It makes me want to be remembered because you never know when you won’t have the opportunity. My dad was an inspiration to me and he would never want to see my life wasted.”
Not surprisingly, Logan plans to keep playing the sport he loves. His goal is to never stop improving as a person and a player. So far he’s right on target for to reach his ultimate dream - to play for the United States in Olympic beach volleyball.
He knows that his father will be watching him every step of the way.