After so many summers and years spent with the Canadian Senior National team, it was hard for me to even imagine taking the summer off; team comes first!
That’s been engrained in my head ever since I was a child and during the many competitive teams I have been a part of. Year after year I’ve packed my bags to head out and join the National team.
During the end of my high school career I made my National team debut; I played with the Junior National team for back to back summers. After that, it didn’t stop. Every summer after each university season at the University of British Columbia, I met up with our Canadian Senior National Team in Winnipeg. Once I graduated from UBC it was 7-8 months of professional volleyball abroad (Germany, Turkey, Italy, Germany again, Azerbaijan, and now Greece) with about one or two weeks at home to do laundry and repack again for the summer. It really has been volleyball all year round for a very, very long time.
I was going strong until I had to face the hardest thing I’ll ever have to deal with in my life: one of my twin brothers passed away in an accident three years ago. I left for my professional year in Istanbul, Turkey about one month later, after finishing up with the National Team. Since then, I’ve been continuing on at full-force, mainly because I am trying to keep my brain distracted with something else, but also because I didn’t really feel I could just stop playing.
Coming off an incredibly difficult year in Azerbaijan (for multiple reasons), a very big disappointing tournament in Nebraska for our Olympic Qualifiers in January, and just finally recognizing that my emotional tank was depleted, I decided that it might be time for a break. A time to breathe and be at home with family and friends, and put myself first for once. What a strange thing to think… and then go through with. At first I was just entertaining the idea but the more I thought about it, I knew it was something I had to do. My heart, body, and soul needed it.
But where do you even go from there? How do you begin that conversation with your coach, teammates, and support staff? How do you explain that you still want to be very much a part of the program but just need a little break? I have so many dreams and future goals for our group and want to lead them to success. Will they understand?Don’t we resent those athletes that just “pick and choose” what years they want to play? When they want to take a break? When they don’t put the team first? This very difficult decision was now mine to make.
It was hard. I wont sugarcoat that at all. I was back and forth for more than a month while I was overseas about whether or not I should do it. After my season in Azerbaijan, I decided I had to. I actually thought to myself, okay, you just need to send this email to coach, and then deal with everything else later. Baby steps. One thing at a time. Because this summer was our last time in Winnipeg, I felt like it was the end of an era for my Volleyball Canada time in this place.
The last 8 years of my life (summers, and sometimes very much into the fall and winter), during the most difficult time of my life while I was trying to cope with my brother’s accident and keep afloat, were spent in Winnipeg, with these wonderful people. The email was sent and the reply was not what I had expected. Disappointment and hurt filled my heart and I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision.
Now turning to my teammates to let them know I wouldn’t be with them on the court. There was a lot of turn over with players this summer as we didn’t make it to the Olympics so the bulk of players I played with actually weren’t returning. The ones that were, I felt a little tension, but overall I knew they understood my intensions and why I was doing this. Most of them said I should have done this earlier and I deserved the time to breathe and just be.
What have I done with all this time? I’ve just lived. Lived a more or less normal summer even though I still felt like I was running around, living out of a suitcase. May was filled with a Canadian road trip (Ottawa to Winnipeg to Calgary to Kamloops to Roberts Creek) while seeing a lot of great people along the way.
June was spent at home, attending weddings, relaxing, working out, gearing up for my brother’s memorial golf tournament where it absolutely poured with rain (still a wonderful yet heart wrenching time).
In July I took on the assistant coach position for one of our Team BC U16 teams. We had a 4-day tryout or “Baden Cup” for you Volleyball BC’ers. From a pool of more than 80 athletes, we took two teams of 12 and trained them for a couple of weeks in Kamloops and then down to Richmond to compete at NTCC’s at the Olympic Oval (this is where our National Team Volleyball center is moving next summer!).
I find myself doing this more and more; getting out into the community to work with these young, aspiring athletes. It is so fulfilling to me. Having once been in their shoes, I understand how important it is to have a positive role model and someone to help guide you to your goals and dreams. I love meeting these athletes, chatting with their parents (ensuring that they stay in Canada to play post-secondary), and hopefully building a strong relationship where I can help them as they continue on their journey. I really do get so much from them.
It was interesting and challenging to put myself into this role, more officially than I have in the past. It was so wonderful being able to work with some amazing coaches and learn different skills from each of them. Chris Dahl was one of the head coaches and each and every day I was totally blown away by his enthusiasm to inspire the athletes and help them get the most out of every single practice, classroom session, and day in general. If Volleyball BC youth are in the hands of coaches like Chris, our future is nothing but bright.
August came like a windstorm; that impending doom of the last month of summer! I’ve been working out hard this summer in preparation to get back on the court and start my season abroad! I am so excited for practices to start up, which is a good thing, because I get to experience that 5-6 week pre-season training we usually miss due to longer National Team summers.
I’m heading to Athens, Greece to play for the club Panathinaikos this coming professional season where they have put together a competitive team with their hearts set on the Greek Cup and Championship. I will be playing with Canadian teammate, Marisa Field, and I am so excited for this new opportunity!
But first – I head to Rio, the last big adventure of the summer. Unfortunately I am not competing, but the boyfriend is, and that’s the next best thing. I have a handful of friends that are also competing in the Games and I cannot wait to go and cheer my heart out.
At first, it was really hard dealing with the fact that I wouldn’t be in Rio competing with my team. I still have it in my heart that our team was supposed to be there. Unfortunately, in January we had a great chance to qualify if we would have beat Puerto Rico. We would have had the opportunity to host a few weaker teams in Canada; teams that Puerto Rico handled more than easily and went on to qualify. A devastating way to end what was an incredible chance for us. That will be on my mind every practice session for the next four years.
Sadly, it’s not our time (yet!), and it took a long time for me to come to terms with that. I prayed for my heart to turn and thankfully, it did! I’m ready to head to Rio and cheer my heart out. I am so extremely proud of all my friends that are competing at the Games. I know the hard work it takes to qualify with the heartbreaks and disappointments along the way and it’s certainty not an easy feat.
So although my childhood dream wasn’t to sit in the stands during an Olympic Games, it’s my time right now to do so. My goal is still to get to the Olympics and play for Canada and I know with a lot of hard work, dedication and drive, we will get there. I’m so glad that I made the decision to take the summer off and start the healing process for my body, mind and soul.