Athletes Abroad: Calgary takeover

Jackson Maris and Keith West both played in the inaugural season of the Calgary Premier League in 2018. Jackson was the 1st pick for his team, the JVC Timberjacks and Keith was 1st pick for his team, the WM Greenbacks. These two talented athletes are currently on contracts in Europe – Jackson with Hammelburg in Germany and Keith with Chaumont in France.

We asked the players a couple of questions to get to know them a little better!


Jackson Maris (blocking)

Jackson Maris (blocking)

How did you get into volleyball? Did you play any other sports growing up?

Jackson: I got into volleyball from a young age. I was introduced to the sport by my father as he was a volleyball player and he got myself and my brothers into the sport. As for other sports, I played all the other sports most kids play – soccer, baseball and basketball.  

Keith: My dad also played volleyball and he got my two older brothers playing when they were young. Having watched them play, I got into the sport as well at a pretty young age and I was hooked from day 1. I played a few different sports, but volleyball was the only sport I played at a competitive level.


Keith West (hitting)

Keith West (hitting)

Did you want to pursue professional volleyball or was it something that just happened and you took the opportunity when it arose?

Jackson: I’ve wanted to play professionally since my club days! Playing a sport as a job was something I was always interested in and wanted to try.

Keith:  It was something that only came to mind around my 3rd year of University. Initially, I wasn’t sold on the idea of leaving Canada and being away from family and friends for such an extended period of time. After I finished my last year of USports eligibility, I felt that I wanted to continue playing. Despite the drawbacks [of leaving Canada], I decided I wanted to pursue a professional contract in Europe.


Jackson Maris

Jackson Maris

Jackson – This is your 4th contract, what has your life been like moving around Europe? You’ve moved from Canada to Sweden to Germany! Are there any significant highlights/challenges in the last 4 years?

 

Moving to a new country definitely has its challenges because you miss so much back home. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthday celebrations you have to be included over FaceTime, but you find ways to make where you feel like home. My fiancé has been with me for most of my time in Europe which has made the biggest difference. Also, the teammates and friends I’ve made can make it such an enjoyable experience.


Keith West (far right) triple block

Keith West (far right) triple block

Keith – This is your 1st contract, how are you finding it so far? What have been some of the highlights/challenges in adjusting to life as a professional athlete right after university?

 

I ended up in a very fortunate situation and everyday I’m reminded of that. Chaumont is currently tied for 1st in our pool for Champions League, as well as in the final four for the French Cup. In the summer, I asked my agent to find me a team where I could experience the highest level of volleyball, and I’m lucky to be in that exact situation!


Jackson Maris blocking in the 2018 Calgary Premier League

Jackson Maris blocking in the 2018 Calgary Premier League

How does competing overseas compare with competing in the Calgary Premier League? Did the league help prepare you?  

Jackson: The biggest difference from the Calgary Premier League is the time commitment. Having to train at least once a day and on top of that you have team workouts - compared to one or two practices a week in the Premier League - is what makes it a full-time job.

Keith: The popularity of volleyball in Europe is a big change from playing Canada. With established leagues in almost every country, attending volleyball games is something that a lot of people do for entertainment. I think the Calgary Premier League was able to accomplish this last summer, maybe on a smaller sale, but it was amazing to be a part of. I want to see Volleyball become a part of the mainstream conversation when it comes to sporting events in Calgary.

Athletes Abroad: From Canada to Hungary

Jazmine White was the 1st draft pick for the Panthers in the 2018 Premier League and Danielle Brisebois was 1st for the Soul Machine. These two fierce competitors became team mates after they both signed a contract with Hungarian team Fatum Nyíregyháza for the 2018/19 season.

This is Danielle’s 2nd season playing in Europe professionally and Jazmine’s 3rd season. The women were kind enough to give us some insight into their life competing overseas and how they got to this stage of their volleyball careers.

Danielle Brisebois (left) and Jazmine White (right)

Danielle Brisebois (left) and Jazmine White (right)


How did you get involved with professional volleyball? Was that your intention from start?

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Danielle: My plan was always to play professionally after university. I first realized it was a possibility in my final year of high school and ever since it was something I wanted to try. In my final year of university, I reached out to some former teammates from UBC who were playing pro and they helped me make it a reality!

Jazmine: I always wished I could play pro, but it seemed like a dream that wouldn’t actually happen. The thought never properly crossed my mind until I had agents reach out to me after my college career was finished. It wasn’t expected but I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!


Did you encounter any roadblocks on your road to becoming a professional? How did you overcome them?

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Danielle: My main roadblock was finding a good agent to work with. Originally, I had signed with a big agency who represented girls I had watched playing in the Olympics which was really exciting. However, after a few months, I realized the agent was more in it for himself rather than what I wanted in a contract. Luckily, after speaking with him, he let me out of the contract early.

I think it’s important to get to know the people you are working with and have open communication about what you’re looking for overseas. That way you give yourself the best chance to succeed.

Jazmine: A big challenge for me was coming from the off-season after my senior year in America. I had to learn how to eat and stay healthy and maintain my fitness on my own without a coach or trainer telling me what to do all the time. That took some time. It was definitely an adjustment. I had to work really hard on that before my first contract. Over the last few seasons, I’ve definitely learned a lot about how foods affect my body. This has been a great help in learning how to fuel my body for better workouts and life in general.


What has been the most challenging in your life as a professional athlete?

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Danielle: The most difficult is keeping yourself busy when you’re not training in the gym or on the courts. There’s a lot of downtime and while many athletes enjoy this aspect of playing professionally, personally, I get a little stir crazy! Not knowing what to do with my time is challenging, so there are many hours spent reading, hanging out in coffee shops or just watching Netflix.

Jazmine: I think the hardest part is just being away from your loved ones. Missing out on so many birthdays, holidays and big life events is really tough. It’s great to have an automatic group of friends when you’re on a team but it doesn’t quite compare.


What has been the best part of competing overseas/professionally?

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Danielle: The best part about playing overseas is simply being paid to do what I love! It’s a really great that something that was a hobby as a kid has now become a way to make a living.

Jazmine: My favourite part has been making friends all over the world. Playing professionally has allowed me to see and experience things I might otherwise not have had the opportunity to.


Do you have any season/personal highlights of the 2018/19 season so far?

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Danielle: A season highlight definitely has to be making it to the 2nd round of the CEV Cup! This was a personal goal of mine when I joined the team so it’s great to actually be fulfilling it! Our goal as a team is to win the Hungarian Cup in March and then finish our regular season with a medal (preferably GOLD!)

Jazmine: We were voted the All-Star team in the pre-season tournament! That was pretty cool. Also, we’ve advanced to the semi - finals of the Hungarian Cup and to the 2nd round of the CEV Cup, so to be able to bring home a medal in both would be amazing!

*The girls played in the 2nd round of the CEV Cup on January 23rd against Mulhouse and were eliminated. The final score was 0-3.


How did playing in the Premier League help prepare you for your season overseas?

The league was great place to train with other elite athletes locally during the off-season. It was great to have consistent opportunities for touches unlike when I trained alone in previous off-seasons. Having a different perspective from new coaches was great and also, having weekly competitions kept me mentally sharp! Outside of the court, it was nice to see old friends and hang out, catch up with everyone who was coming home from their overseas contracts.


Fatum Nyíregyháza next play:

  • Jaszberenyi on January 25th in NB I (postponed)

  • Jaszberenyi on January 28th/30th in the semi-finals of the Hungarian Cup

You can catch their games live on their Facebook.

Sarah Pavan Applies for Toronto Premier League Draft

The Toronto Premier League is ecstatic to announce that volleyball superstar Sarah Pavan has officially entered her application for the 2018 Toronto Premier League Draft. The Canadian athlete is one of the top international players of our time, and with her family future in mind, she's decided to step back from her Beach successes to settle down in Toronto.

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Sarah is an internationally stud. She left a mark at The University of Nebraska where she lead her team to an NCAA Title and was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. Following her standout University career, Sarah went on to compete professionally throughout Europe, Asia and South America.

Sarah was the youngest athlete EVER to have competed on the Canadian Women's National Indoor Team at the early age of 16 before deciding to move her career to the Beach to pursue her Olympic dreams. The whole volleyball community had the opportunity to come together and cheer on the team of Pavan / Bansley at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where they went on to finish 5th on the Olympic Stage. 

Melissa Humana-Paredes (left) and Sarah Pavan (right) win Canada's first FIVB World Tour title at the Porec Major in Croatia

Melissa Humana-Paredes (left) and Sarah Pavan (right) win Canada's first FIVB World Tour title at the Porec Major in Croatia

Since the 2016 Olympics, Sarah and her new partner Melissa Humana-Paredes, have had outstanding results on the Beach Tour. The most successful women's beach team in Canadian history, Sarah and Melissa became the first to win Gold at an FIVB Major event, on Canada Day none the less. Despite their successes, Sarah confesses she is excited about what is happening in Toronto and wants to play a role in the Premier League. 

"My true love of the game lies with the Indoor Game. I see an opportunity to settle and start my family in Toronto while helping to establish the first Professional League within Canada. The Toronto Premier League is a great step for the Indoor Volleyball Community and I am excited to support their growth and get back on the hard court." says Sarah.

So, the real question is, 

WHO WILL GET THE LUCKY NUMBER 1 PICK FOR THE 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE DRAFT?!

Canadian Armed Forces Men's National Team to Compete in Challenger Series No. 4

As we wrap up the Challenger Series for the 2017-2018 season, we are excited to announce the addition of a new team to competition. The Canadian Armed Forces Men’s National team has booked their tickets and are set to compete this weekend at Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre!

Belonging to an organization called CISM (Couceil International du Sport Militaire), the Canadian Armed Forces team competes across the world against armed forces national teams. The CISM is one of the largest multidisciplinary organizations in the world, organizing various sporting events for the armed forces of its 136 member countries and is one of the global sports organizations in which the largest number of disciplines is represented. CISM annually organizes over twenty Military World Championships for approximately 30 different sports, continental and regional competitions.

CISM Canadian Men's Team competing at a recent CISM competition in Amsterdam where they won Gold

CISM Canadian Men's Team competing at a recent CISM competition in Amsterdam where they won Gold

This year, Canada will be hosting the World Volleyball Championships for both men and women in Edmonton 28th May-3rd June. The Military World Games is held every 4 years and is second in participation size to the summer Olympic games. The next World games are to be held in Wuhan, China in November of 2019. 

"Our constant goal is to seek high caliber competition abroad to better prepare us to face the nations we face on the international circuit." - Chuck Harvey, Manager of CISM Canada Men's Volleyball

The majority of international competitors train all year long, and many have the ability to augment professional athletes to compete for time served in countries where 2 years of military service are mandatory.  For Canada, training and competing together as a team is limited, usually on an average of 5-6 times a year, as the roster consists of the best athletes from across the country (basically an all-star team). With the limited training opportunities, the Canadian team is continually seeking high level competition and experience, and they are excited to finally have options available within Canada! 

The team competing at the upcoming Challenger event consists of many of their younger players, you can check out the Roster and a small bio about each player below! To learn more about the CISM Men's Volleyball Canada Team, check out and follow their Facebook page.

OCdt David Hamilton (setter) – This will be David’s 1st time with the team. He is currently the setter for the RMC Paladins. He has been scouted early in his career as an exceptional prospect.

2 LT Michael Peet (setter) – Michael recently graduated from the Military college and is now located in Victoria. A 6’6 setter who played with RMC.

OCdt Dale Towe (OH) – Dale is in his 3rd year at RMC and is one of the most noticeable Volleyball athletes in a while. He has been selected on the CIS all-rookie team and most recently awarded the MVP of the CISM quarter world championships in the Netherlands.  He is one of our BIG GUNS J

Sgt Ivan Karin (OH) -  Ivan is one of our veteran players who has won so many MVP’s throughout his career, it’s too long to list. Ivan also is a high level referee. He is from Ottawa and is also a BIG GUN.

MCpl Gord Lee (Libero) – Gord is another of our veteran players. He is out of Cold Lake Alberta. Our top libero who has experienced several international tournaments.

2 Lt Justin Scapinello (RS) – Justin is currently in the CAF enrolment process. He will soon become a direct entry Infantry Officer and a valuable member of our team. Many of the players will be familiar with Justin as he played with the Purple Ponies in the last Challenger event. Justin has a remarkable career in the sport thus far with Western University as well as a professional stint in Sweden. BIG GUN!!

2 Lt Blake McClelland (OH) – Blake is another rookie on the roster. Recently graduated from RMC, he is now in the process of his occupational training and will be situated in Halifax upon completion.

NCdt Travis Verbeek (Mid) – Travis currently plays with RMC and has travelled with the team in the past. His performance at the US Open Nationals was noteworthy of being brought on the roster,

Cpl Ken McKenzie (Mid) – Ken is located in Petawawa, ON. He played with Winnipeg Wesmen under coach Larry McKay for 4 yrs. He has been with the program now for a couple years and was part of the gold medal team in Netherlands last June.

Cpl Eric Desforges (Mid) – Eric is located in Valcartier, QC. He also has a couple years with the team and has been able to grow into one of the core players.

Spotted : Dan Dearing Makes Challenger Series Debut

He's back! A welcome surprise on the courts last month, Dan Dearing competed at Challenger Series No. 2 for the first time since a career limiting lower back injury in 2015.

An incredible athlete, Dan dominated on both the indoor and beach volleyball court. No stranger to injury, he worked his way back on the court after a 2 year recovery from a patella tendon tear, to finish his final years at York as a Libero (2012) and Right Side (2013), before making a mark on the beach.

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Dan competed for 6 years for our Men's Beach National Team, 3 of which he was competing professionally to fulfil his Olympic aspirations. His accolades speak for themselves, Dan alongside beach partner Garrett May, were the 3rd highest ranked pairing for Team Canada and finished as high as 5th internationally on the FIVB World Tour in South Africa. Not to mention finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Norceca Events, and winning Beach Nationals in 2014. 

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A devastating lower back injury in Qatar in November 2015 forced Dan to step away from competition for two full years. But his passion for the sport couldn't keep him away from the courts, driven to give back and impact youth through mentoring and coaching. An integral part of Unity Sports Volleyball Club, he currently coaches full time; Head Coaching both Indoor Rep and House League Academies, along with being the Technical Director of Beach Volleyball for Unity. And that's not all, Dan also created IBELIEVE, a campaign to give back to his community in Rexdale/Etobicoke where he grew up throughout his youth and teenage years.

A lot was given to me through guidance, mentorship and opportunity and it is my opportunity to do so now. All funds raised go directly to athletes and families in Rexdale to help direct them in life through the avenue of sport.
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Though his Olympic aspirations have changed, Dan is excited to continuing inspiring and coaching as much as possible, and playing whenever he can in events within North America, Central America and the Caribbean. You can catch him competing at the Challenger Series events throughout the year, and rumour has it you may even get to see him in action this summer, competing in the 2018 Toronto Premier League! 

Fun fact : Dan "loooovvveee(s) bake goods, especially chocolate crossaints!!"

Featured Challenger Series Competitor: Myriam Hallé

For Myriam Hallé, her journey with volleyball happened a bit differently than most, but her passion and love for the sport is just as great as any. 


Club: Les Vipères des Laurentides
College: Les Nordiques, Lionel-Groulx
University: University of Montréal


Hallé's volleyball resume is filled with accolades from both indoor and beach volleyball, including 2 RSEQ titles with the University of Montréal and both a silver and gold medalist at the 2011 and 2014 Beach National Championships, respectively.

Hallé played volleyball all through high school and club like most, and she also played College for Lionel-Groulx before being recruited to the University of Montréal. "The coach saw me play libero during my last collegial year and asked me to attend the training camp because he liked my energy on the court," she says. 

Hallé eagerly accepted a position on the squad but after only a few weeks of training with the team, both setters got injured. "I was asked to learn to set and I never played as a setter in my years of volleyball before University," she says. "On my first practice I was asked to jump set and do fast plays. I'd say I had to learn quickly!"

Hallé continued to set for the team for 3 years before stepping back from volleyball to pursue her career in Pharmaceuticals. Not able to ignore her love for the game for very long, she joined the Celtiques Senior Team to keep playing at a high level, and started coaching with Olivier Trudel at the University of Montréal. "I felt that 3 years as a player were not enough for me and I still had a lot the give to the team," she says. 

With the Celtiques she trains once a week, and at first it was a bit of a shock adjusting to the post-competitive volleyball life she once had. "The environment is very different. We're self-coached and play on Tuesdays after a day of working. It's a good way to continue to play my sport at a good level and having a good time with my friends," she states. "We love doing tournaments organized by ONE Volleyball to bring us competition as there is not a lot of tournament we can do around Montreal."

Aside from her time with the Celtiques and her life as a Pharmacist, which she loves, Hallé is taking Pharmacy Management classes to buy her own Pharmacy one day. And since coffee is one of her favourite things, it's likely that you can find her sitting in a remote coffee shop in Montréal-Nord, sipping a hot cup of Joe and studying for her future career goals.

Hallé claims its her work ethic that gives her the drive to pursue new avenues of her career, but that comes from all her years spent on the court. "Everything I learn in sport is helping me a lot in my career right now," she says. "Whoever is on the other side of the net won't intimidate me and that relates in my life too."

You can catch Myriam Hallé and the Celtiques January 6-7, 2018 at the 1st Challenger Series Invitational