Premier League Athletes Kick Off Their Professional Seasons

It's back to school already, and while many of us our preparing for Club Tryouts and getting back into the work routine, others have made the trek overseas to train for the beginning of the Professional Season in Europe!

We were so thrilled to have an amazing group of talented athletes compete in the inaugural season of the Premier League, and join us in supporting the growth of post-secondary volleyball in Canada. It was amazing to see the impact this season had for our Canadian Professionals, who joined us between seasons in Europe, and for the next generations of outstanding talent. Not only were many young athletes inspired by competing amongst some of our top Canadians, the League also provided a perfect training platform and mentoring opportunity for those already competing in Europe.

Erik Mattson wowed the crowd week after week with his amazing defensive abilities. Click to view this crazy rally from the Premier League on instagram.

Erik Mattson wowed the crowd week after week with his amazing defensive abilities. Click to view this crazy rally from the Premier League on instagram.

"The Premier League was great to train and compete during the off season at a relatively low volume. Being able to get reps twice a week allowed me to stay in game form and not let too much rust set in before heading back overseas. I'm excited to see how the league grows in the following years and contributes to the growth of volleyball in not only Toronto but the rest of the country as well." - Erik Mattson

Along with the 8 Premier League athletes heading back overseas for another season, we are excited to follow 6 new athletes who are preparing for their first seasons competing in Europe. We can only hope that the Premier League continues to inspire athletes to follow their dreams and continue competing in this sport that we love!

Alsi Ersozoglu

Alsi Ersozoglu

"Meeting and playing with a whole new group of athletes, who had been playing overseas in the previous years, inspired me to look for a contract. It has always been my dream but never really my plan, and participating in this league both helped me find the joy in the game again, after a long (and disappointing) varsity season, and connected me to people who could guide me on how to find a team overseas." - Asli Ersozoglu

We can't wait to follow the journey of these 14 athletes this season. Check out their bio below, and follow us on facebook to stay up-to-date on our Canadians! 

Uchenna Ofaha (middle) plays his first season overseas, and Jori Mantha (hitting) is playing his second.

Uchenna Ofaha (middle) plays his first season overseas, and Jori Mantha (hitting) is playing his second.


Returning Overseas

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Name: Steve Hunt
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Saint Nazaire, France
Experience: 6th Professional Season, University of Hawaii
Premier League Highlights: Male MVP, top 3 on the leaderboard in Points, Serve, Dig and Receive
Follow: @stuntinaroundtheworld

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Name: Erik Mattson
Position: Libero
2017/2018 Club: Abiant Lycurgus, Netherlands
Premier League Highlights: Best Male Libero
Experience: 5th Professional Season, University of Alberta
Follow: @erik_mattson5

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Name: Taylor Brisebois
Position: Middle
2017/2018 Club: Volleyball Club Offenburg, Germany
Experience: Second Professional Season, McMaster University
Follow: @taybrisebois

Name: Jori Mantha
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: OK Hoče, Slovenia
Experience: 2nd Professional Season, McMaster University
Follow: @jorimantha

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Name: Ray Szeto
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: SVG Lüneburg Germany
Experience: 2nd Professional Season, York University
Follow@ray871

Name: Julie Mota
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Degerfors Orion, Sweden
Experience: 9th Professional Season, Georgian College & Humber College
Follow: @juliemota12

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Name: Taylor Hunt
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Pafiakos, Cyprus
Experience: 5th Professional Season, University of Alberta
Follow: @tayhunt5

Name: Andre Brown
Position: Middle
2017/2018 Club: Rovaniemi, Finland
Experience: 3rd Professional Season, Humber College
Follow: @andre_brown_18


First Professional Seasons

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Name: Alex Duncan-Thibealt
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Sora, Italy
Experience: First Professional Season, York University
Follow: @alexduncanvball

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Name: Aleksa Miladinovic
Position: Setter
2017/2018 Club: Sodertelge, Sweden
Experience: First Professional Season, Ryerson University & University of Toronto
Premier League Highlights: Best Male Setter
Follow: @aleksa_miladinovic9
 

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Name: Patrick Strzalkowski
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: VC Gotha, Germany
Experience: 1st Professional Season, University of Guelph
Follow: @patty_straz

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Name: Asli Ersozoglu
Position: Libero
2017/2018 Club: Brondby, denmark
Experience: 1st Professional Season, University of Toronto
Follow: @aslersoz

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Name: Stefan Ristic
Position: Outside Hitter
2017/2018 Club: Chemie Volley Mittledeutschland, Germany
Experience: 1st Professional Season, Ryerson University
Follow: @stefrista

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Name: Uchenna Ofoha
Position: Middle
2017/2018 Club: Kokkolan Tiikerit, Finland
Experience: 1st Professional Season, Ryerson University
Follow: @_uch


Malin Lindgren - From Sweden to Canada

Club: Svedala Volleyball Club
Professional: Orebro Volley, Sweden
Junior and Senior National Team in Sweden


Malin Lindgren playing professional volleyball for Orebro Volley

Malin Lindgren started playing volleyball at the age of 6 for Svedala Volleyball Club, which was founded by her mother. Growing up in Europe, she saw a completely different sport environment that we have in Canada. "Sports look a little different as it is typically not offered in school, but done through a club system." Lindgren says. "I guess [that is] the biggest difference between Volleyball in Europe vs. Canada."

There is ample opportunity for anyone in any part of Swedish society to play a sport and it is heavily supported making it free, or for a very small fee - so everyone can play. "Youth Sports in Sweden is generally subsidized in some ways by the government, typically making it affordable for everyone to play for a club," she says.

She quickly fell in love with volleyball for both the team aspect and the strong mental game one requires to be successful, and she was really good. "I started with the Junior National Team at the age of 13 and from there I was one of ten players accepted to our National Sports Academy High School," she says. All dreams come with sacrifice, and for Malin it meant leaving home at the age of 15 to pursue Volleyball.

The Junior National Team exposed her to an array of high quality players on an International scale.  "We played in the Swedish Pro League from September to April/May, in addition to travelling Europe for the Nordic Championships, European and World Cup Qualifiers and 8 National Tournaments," she says. At only the age of 17, she played her first game with the Senior National Team and played until she was 24, when she suffered an injury that ended her career. "I slipped while sprinting up to the net and sustained a fracture and cartilage injury in my foot. I didn't think it was too bad at first and played on it for two months before I realized that it wouldn't go away on it's own and I needed surgery."

Needing a change in pace, she looked outside of Sweden for new challenges and opportunities, and landed on Toronto. Though she has played in other local leagues since her arrival in the 6ix, this will be her first tournament with ONE Volleyball and she states this type of program is missing from Canadian Volleyball. "I think it's sad that for most players there is no where to go after high school or University unless you are lucky enough to get a Professional contract in another country. In Europe there are several Professional or Semi-Professional Leagues at different levels, which means you can continue your volleyball career at a fairly high, fairly competitive level for really as long as you want or are able to."

She notes another difference between the sport culture in Sweden and Canada; volunteers. "Volleyball in schools here may offer the sport to those who cannot afford to play club but is often run by volunteer coaches that might be learning as they go. I often wonder what the options are for those player that don't make the school team and cannot for whatever reason access the various clubs around the city." Financial support is the other major difference between Canada and the European sport system, "My club team, Orebro Volley, won 10 consecutive Swedish Championships, the Nordic Club Championships, the Grand Prix and participated in the Euro League." She said they received 400 000 SEK (approximately $60,000) in financial support from the city. 

The crazy thing is this seems like pennies to Lindgren, and she notes that lack of funding is one of the reasons Sweden isn't more successful on the International Stage. "The local Mens Soccer Team received approximately 14.7 million SEK (approximately $2,210,830)," she says. So it sounds like volleyball has a ways to go there, which is something it does have in common with Canada. 

Chris Voth: Athlete, Leader and Role Model

It's the best time of the year - playoff season! First, a huge congratulations to UBC Thunderbirds Women's Volleyball and Trinity Western Spartans Men's Volleyball for earning the first ever USports Volleyball Championship titles this weekend. It was a weekend filled with great matches and amazing crowds in both Toronto and Edmonton! If you didn't catch the action live, you can still watch the matches here. Although the USports Volleyball Championships are over, playoffs are just heating up for our Canadians competing overseas. We caught up with Canadian Chris Voth, following his last match of regular season Saturday, and heading into playoffs this week.

Chris Voth (12) blocking against fellow Canadian Steve Hunt (5)

Chris Voth (12) blocking against fellow Canadian Steve Hunt (5)


Post-Secondary: University of Manitoba
Professional: Abiant Lycurgus Groningen, NL (2014-2016), Perungan Pojat - Team Lakkapää (2016/2017)
Senior National A/B Team: 2011- 2016


Chris picked up a volleyball younger than most, with parents who were heavily involved in the sport as both coaches and athletes. He fell in love with the game at a young age, having the opportunity to watch high level University and National team matches in Manitoba. "I started idolizing the players [at the games] and wanted to be like them."  After graduating from High School he joined his sister, Ashley, at the University of Manitoba. Having an outstanding career as a Bison, Chris was selected to compete with the National Team at two FISU games in both 2011 and 2013, and has since continued to train with the National Team Program. He competed his first two seasons abroad in the Netherlands, where he earned a North Dutch Cup Championship and a Silver Medal in the Erendivise League.

Currently competing for Lakkapää in Finland, Chris and his team are excited heading into a best of 5 playoff series against the defending Champions and 4th place seed, Tiikerit. The match up happens to be against fellow Canadian, Steve Hunt, who has had an outstanding season in Finland this year. Chris joined the Finnish team half way through the season, helping them to a 5th place finish in the league, and hoping to help make a difference in their playoff push. Although Chris competed with a top 2 team in the Netherlands, the Finnish league is strong and the level has proven to be a step up. "There’s just a lot more experienced players and not as much of a drop off after the top couple teams."  Chris is very happy with his decision to play in Finland, and is looking forward to competing in the upcoming playoff series. But the road to get where he is today has not been easy, and Chris has shown great courage and strength, becoming a role model for athletes all of the world. 

In 2014, Chris came out as the first openly gay male volleyball player competing with the Men's National Team. Although his close friends had known for quite some time, coming out to his family and the volleyball community was a courageous step that Chris was ready to take. Support flooded in from the community, teammates and other athletes, but new challenges arose for Chris including setbacks and barriers for his volleyball career. After competing in the Netherlands for a team who was accepting and supportive, Chris was brought to a new realization of the barriers for LGBTTQ athletes when he lost a contract this past summer due to his sexual orientation. This setback sparked an even stronger desire within him to go after his dreams and to compete, showing other athletes that it is possible to be out and still be successful in sport.

"The experience in the summer wasn’t ideal, but it did allow me the opportunity to address the issues about sexuality in sport. Until that point, I would always read people’s comments that athletes don’t need to keep coming out and it doesn’t matter. In an ideal world it wouldn’t matter, but we aren’t there yet. The sporting culture around the world isn’t accepting and many athletes are afraid to come out. I’ve gotten many messages from athletes in different sports all around the world and it’s surprising to hear their stories. At the Olympics, there were 60+ out athletes, but only 11 were men and none were team sport athletes. This is a huge red flag for me and hopefully others. We have made progress but we are by no means close to perfect. There’s a lot of room to grow and I’m just trying to keep continuing that battle for the other gay athletes out there. Athletes are role models in the community and by changing the sport culture, I also hope that it changes the cultures outside of sport that may be a bit more conservative."

Chris has been an amazing leader, and is changing attitudes all over the world. Just a few weeks ago, he walked alongside his Finnish teammates and members of the club in Arctic Pride. The Pride took place just days after Finland legalized same sex marriage and the support shown by the small Northern community was felt by all. Being well known through the community, the crowd was chanting their team name and congratulating them. But as Chris said, although progress has been made, it is so important for us to continue to grow as an accepting and inclusive society. Chris talks below about what we can do as athletes, teammates and fans to help move us forward, as well as some of the amazing initiatives and organizations he is currently involved with.

"I do think there are a lot of barriers still. I think that it starts with the athletes themselves. From personal experience, a lot of negative thoughts come into your head when first discovering your sexuality. So if we can have more “out” athletes to set examples for others, that will help more come out. Another potential area for improvement would be the team. In sport, harsh language can really deter someone from coming out because they don’t feel welcome. Words matter. You may think you’re joking or that it doesn’t matter, but if someone is struggling in their own head, those words carry a lot of weight. It’s also scary risking being alienated from your team if you do come out, especially in volleyball because it is such a team sport. The teams themselves can also help by taking the initiative to demonstrate their commitment to being inclusive and accepting. The Canucks just had their Pride Night weeks ago. They don’t have any gay players but they still all wore rainbowed jerseys for warm up. That’s so great to see and I hope that other organizations follow suit. That’s one of the reasons it was so awesome to have our team in Arctic Pride, hopefully it will result in other teams in Finland and across the world to do the same. Lastly, fans can get super into the game. In the summer when I lost my contract, the team blamed opponent fans for the reason they didn’t want me on their team. I have played in many countries, including Russia on several different occasions, and haven’t had a problem. It is great to have passionate fans, but I don’t think we should accept discrimination. That is a tough one to regulate of course. You can see that there are potential problems at every level in the sporting world. It’s a complex issue and I don’t know the answer how to propel us forward. I hope that by being a voice for gay athletes that I can be a part of the solution. I’m hoping to inspire others to come out and to show that it is possible to be out and still succeed in sport."

"I have been a part of several different organizations since coming out. However, the one closest to my heart is Out There Winnipeg Sports and Recreation. When I first came out, I went to a gay drop in volleyball thing. I spoke about it a bit in my TEDx Talk, but it was funny because I wore ratty clothes because I didn’t want someone from the volleyball community to recognize me, as I was only out to a few people. It was a cool experience because I was terrified about being “out” but had volleyball to fall back on. I was able to just play. It was funny because I was shaking out of fear quite badly, which I’ve never experienced in a real volleyball match. This was different scenario for me. Perhaps that’s why out gay athletes statistically do better than their straight and closeted counterparts, because you strengthen yourself in the process of coming out. Anyways, the volleyball league falls under the Out There Winnipeg umbrella and because it was so important for my personal development, I wanted to offer that same experience to others. I am now the VP at Out There Winnipeg and have put a fair bit of money into it to try and get it off the ground more. We have a new logo, website and many new activities. Check out www.outtherewinnipeg.ca for more info."

Chris' next match is on Wednesday, March 22nd vs. Tiikerit, follow him on his Professional Volleyball journey here.

 

Pandas Seeking Gold at U Sports Volleyball Championships

It's an exciting time of year as the best teams across the country gather for the final weekend, where one team will be crowned for the 2017 season. On the men's side, the U Sports FOG Men's Volleyball Championships is taking place at the Saville Centre in Edmonton, where top seed and favourite Trinity Western will look to defend their U Sport Men's Volleyball title. Whereas here in Toronto, the University of Alberta Pandas head into the 2017 U Sport Volleyball Championships presented by Jason Rinaldi ranked 1st, looking to take their first U Sport Championship since 2007.

The Pandas Volleyball program, with coach Laurie Eisler (2016-2017 Canada West Coach of the Year) at the helm, is one of the most successful volleyball programs in the country, sitting just behind the UBC Thunderbirds who have claimed an outstanding 10 U Sports Championships. The Pandas, who took home the Canada West Conference title last weekend over UBC, are seeking their 8th U Sport Championship in program history this weekend in Toronto. With a strong season behind them, finishing 22-2 in the regular season, the Pandas feel more prepared then ever to hit the court this weekend.

"We have put in so much work as a team this year, and for the group of us graduating, we have put in 5 years worth of work (as well as all of the club years!) for this weekend.  To be rewarded as the best team in U Sport Volleyball is a pretty special accomplishment and is what we strive for every season." Meg Casault, 5th Year Panda and Canada West Player of the Year

As many of us know, the regular season means nothing in playoffs, where anything can happen in a single elimination bracket. No one knows it better than this Pandas squad. In 2015, many of these same athletes took the court in the Championship Final, where a relentless Trinity Western team came back from being down 2 sets, to win their first ever U Sports Championship, a daunting repeat of the Canada West Finals the weekend prior. And again in 2016, the Pandas, who had seemed to bounce back with a strong 2015-2016 season finishing 20-4 in regular season, fell short in Canada West Final Four, failing to reach Nationals for only the 2nd time since 2003.

Meg Casault - U of A Pandas Volleyball

Meg Casault - U of A Pandas Volleyball

For three Pandas athletes, including 5th Year Meg Casault, it will be the last chance to claim the U Sports Championship Title. "It would mean the world to me to end my career on a high note and to have that gold medal and that banner at the end of it. I am so proud of the work our team has put in this year in order to prepare us for this weekend. We have learned just how difficult it is to win and that no one is going to give it to us." Meg Casault has had an outstanding career with the Pandas, being named a First Team All-Canadian for the last three consecutive years. This season, Meg broke the Canada West All-Time Conference Kills record, and goes into the 2017 U Sports Championship named the 2017 Canada West Player of the Year.

The No.1 Pandas will face a tough opponent and host, No.8 Ryerson Rams, in their first round Quarter-Finals match-up this Friday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. This will not be the first time this Pandas squad has had to battle the host in Championship play. At the 2015 Championships, the Pandas ousted the University of Toronto in a 0-2 comeback; the 5 set comeback theme that seemed to ripple through the playoffs that year. "There is always the added challenge of being against the home crowd, but for me, that just fuels me to perform. I would pick a packed gym full of the opponent’s fans any day over an empty one! It will be an exciting environment to be a part of-and is what Nationals is all about; showcasing the best in Canada!"

Come out and watch the 2017 U Sport Women's Volleyball Championship presented by Jason Rinaldi from March 17th-19th at Ryerson University right here in Toronto! Tickets are available for purchase here.

1. Pandas (Canada West champions)
2. McMaster Marauders (OUA champions)
3. UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West finalists)
4. Montreal Carabins (RSEQ Champions)
5. Dalhousie Tigers (AUS Champions)
6. Western Mustangs (OUA finalists)
7. Trinity Western Spartans (Canada West bronze medalists)
8. Ryerson Rams (OUA 4th place/hosts)

 

Erik Mattson: The Highs and Lows of Professional Volleyball

One of the biggest misconceptions about playing Professional Volleyball is that athletes are on some kind of extended vacation following their post-secondary careers. Canadians are not exposed to volleyball as a professional sport, so it is hard to understand the life of our athletes abroad. Playing overseas is an amazing opportunity to make money competing and meet new people all over the world, but it is also stressful, uncertain and at times overwhelming. Erik Mattson has experienced this roller coaster ride of highs and lows, certainly in this last season competing in Slovakia.

Erik Mattson is a USport National Champion and USport Libero of the Year, as well as one of the few Canadian liberos currently competing overseas, a position which is proven to be difficult to earn as a professional player. After competing for three seasons in the German Bundesliga, he accepted a contract in Slovakia, where he is currently competing in his fourth season abroad. This season has been one of the toughest both mentally and physically for Erik, as he has encountered a whole set of new challenges as a professional athlete.

Club: Toronto Volleyball Club
University: University of Alberta 2008-2013
Professional: Evivo Düren 2013-2014, SVG Lüneburg 2014-2015, 2015-2016, VK Prievidza 2016-2017


After spending close to 90 days in Slovakia competing, Erik was informed that he didn't have the proper visa paperwork to stay in the EU. "I had to leave the EU. I spent 3 weeks in Croatia and when I finally came back to Slovakia, I was told that I needed to leave again." Erik was flown back to Toronto for over a month while he waited for a solution to his visa issues. Terminating the contract and staying in Toronto would mean losing his job and not competing the remainder of the season. "I was mentally and emotionally drained. I came to Slovakia to play volleyball and I wasn't able to because of paper work." 

Finally at the beginning of January, Erik was able to return to Slovakia and compete with his team again. He couldn't have been happier to get back on the court, but unfortunately that wasn't the only challenge he faced over the past season. Recently, Erik had to miss a full week of training due to back issues which went from manageable to worse. Injuries are an added stress as a professional athlete, not only is it frustrating as an athlete because you want to be on the court, but now you have the added pressure from your club.

Despite these setbacks, Erik and his team have finished the season in a great position for playoffs. In the last week of regular season, they handed VK Bystrina SPU Nitra, the first place team in the league, their second loss of the season in a 3-2 battle. Finishing third overall in the Slovakia league, VK Prievidza is looking forward to making a strong playoff push. Saturday, the team will look to sweep their quarter-finals series and move onto the semis where they will face Presov, the second place team. The match up in the semis will be an exciting one, with Prievidza recently sweeping Presov 3-0 in league play. You can check out the Quarter-Final action, Saturday March 18th, on www.tvcom.cz

Erik hopes to continue playing for the next 2-3 years before starting the next chapter of his life. "My favourite part of playing volleyball in Europe is being able to do what I love most every single day. Volleyball has allowed me to meet so many amazing people and experience so many amazing things."

We R Strong and We R Proud

One of the amazing attributes of sport is the power it has to influence and promote change on such a remarkable scale. Many athletes see sport as a platform for social change and have pushed the envelope to promote equality and understanding. At ONE Volleyball, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by a community of strong and motivated individuals - individuals who are making waves in their own communities and influencing not only our generation but the generation of youth to follow.

In light of International Women's Day and the #beboldforchange movement, we are excited to introduce you to Becky Zeeman. Becky is an inspiring individual and a powerful female leader in the volleyball community. After playing professional volleyball overseas with her husband, Joren Zeeman, Becky took advantage of an opportunity to step back on the court with the Ryerson Women's Volleyball team. Inspired by her experiences, and with a new platform of influence through her Ryerson community, Becky decided to undertake a series of projects focusing on women in sport which aims to change attitudes and promote self-confidence. Check out more about Becky's experiences below and join the conversation today!

Club: Ottawa Kangaroos & National Capitals
University: Queen’s University & Ryerson University
Professional: TV Gladbeck, Germany; V.V. Grimma, Germany

Tell me a little bit more about your decision to go back to Ryerson and play for another year.

The decision to use my 5th and final year of eligibility with Ryerson this season was very complex. It all started when I noticed how restless I was while on the sidelines during practices and games working as the full-time assistant coach at Ryerson. My player’s flame had clearly not been fully extinguished even though I found myself in my dream career. The drive to be physical and competitive again was something that I needed to pursue after learning that I still had the opportunity to use my final year. Originally, I thought that the rules were the same for women as they are for men in terms of losing USports eligibility after being paid by a professional club team. Well let me tell you, they are not. It’s this reverse sexism loophole that I decided to take advantage of. After I discovered I could legally play, I consulted with my husband, Joren, to see if becoming a student again could really work. The next step was to discuss with coach Dustin. How would this dual role affect the team? What were my goals for contributing to the team? How would my coaching responsibilities change? These were all very important questions that we took many months to consider in order to make sure we were making the right decision in the team’s best interest.

What was your biggest motivation to go back and what did this year mean to you?

A few of my motivating factors to play again were; to make an impact as an experienced veteran leader on the team, to help transform the team culture, to use my body in a purposeful physical way again, to feel the rush of pressure in competition, to be a part of a team again, to compete in meaningful competitions such as OUA championship and Nationals - which we are hosting at Ryerson this season.

This team and this season means an enormous amount to me. Not only is it my full-time job, but it’s also my passion, my family, my goals, my social community, my personal and professional development and, my pride. I give a lot of myself to this team and this program daily and I am so privileged to be a part of such a great group of people.

Unfortunately I suffered a season ending injury on Feb 8th, which then turned most of what I was expecting and planning for, completely upside-down. I broke my left leg during a match and it couldn’t have happened at more poorly timed moment. I went from being the most fit and athletic that I’ve ever been with playoffs and nationals right around the corner to not being able to walk for 4 months and needing surgery.

What have you learned from your season ending injury and what is the biggest advice you would provide to your team heading into Final four and Nationals in the coming weeks?

As heartbreaking and disappointing as this injury has been it’s given me an entirely fresh perspective on sport and life, which I’m very thankful for. Obviously it crushes me to not be able to finish the season on the court after all the hard work I’ve put in in the gym, the weight room, the classroom and so on but at least I can still be apart of the team during this historic season. It’s hard to appreciate everything you have until something is gone. What I’ve really taken from this injury is how lucky I am to have so many amazing opportunities to temporarily lose in the first place - like ability to walk, play sports and compete in meaningful championships. Not everyone has those chances to begin with at all, so for that, I am extremely grateful.

My message to the girls before every match this season shared a similar theme; they were just dressed in different costumes. Appreciate every opportunity you have to compete together because these moments won’t last forever. Don’t get hung up on the negative because the future needs your full attention and commitment, and celebrate greatness as if it is your last match. I’m very satisfied to have had that mindset throughout the entire season, right from the beginning, because I knew it would be my last season. I just didn’t know it would end a month and a half early before all the excitement and pressure. One silver lining to all of this is that a different player on the team gets to hit the court and experience the most thrilling and emotional matches of the season. Here I come beach season and ONE Volleyball tournaments!!

What inspired you to start this campaign #weRstrongandweRproud?

This female athlete body image campaign is actually 1 of 5 projects I’ve been working on this season that embody the theme of women in sport. I’m fortunate enough to have a very sturdy influence as a player and coach and connections within Ryerson, which have allowed me to make all of these ideas come to life. I was actually inspired by the confidence and carefree attitude of my tree planting community this past summer to look, dress, act and be whatever makes you feel happy. If only I could bring this attitude into the real world, how wonderful would that be?

"Our bodies should be cherished for all of the amazing things they allow us to do." - Becky Zeeman, Ryerson University Volleyball

"Our bodies should be cherished for all of the amazing things they allow us to do." - Becky Zeeman, Ryerson University Volleyball

Female athletes have a strange and unnecessary hill to climb with the mass media pushing skinny, near frail women, with “perfect” 0 sized figures and, no imperfections as the way all women need to look in order to be beautiful. One goal of this particular campaign is for women and men alike to see that women are comfortable and proud to have muscles and to be strong. That a woman’s beauty comes in so many forms and sizes and by caring for your body in whatever way you choose is beautiful, just be confident about it. What’s so amazing about this campaign is the way it makes our girls feel about themselves. Not only is it showing their pride in their own bodies and showcasing the hard work they’ve put in to achieve their strength but it reaffirms the confidence they have thanks to the enormous amount of support we’ve been getting on social media. I also love the idea of having a quote written by each athlete to include with the photo. This adds a really special personal touch to the message and post each day. Moral of the story, everyone needs to go tree planting! ;)

What do you find are some of the biggest setbacks or barriers you see women still facing in sport?

Each project has it’s own unique message addressing women but more importantly men. In order to effect the most change we need to be realistic and recognize that men hold the majority of influential positions in sport. If we want to see the gender parity in sport shrink we can’t just preach to the choir about our issues, we need to influence and get the men on board as well.

I tribute many supportive men in my life for assisting me in my development to get me where I am today, starting with my father. Dustin is also a significant person in my life who’s offered me great opportunities of growth and responsibility. It’s really wonderful to have a mentor with a feminist mindset; he continues to be an ally for me and my ideas.

If there is one thing you want women and young girls to take away from this campaign, what would it be?

Our bodies should be cherished for all of the amazing things they allow us to do. My hopes from this campaign are that girls and women of all ages can learn to treat their own bodies with love and care as well as learn to feel confident and proud of their bodies. It’s great to have personal body goals but it’s also important to be happy with what you’ve got as you work towards your goals.


Another project in the Women in Sport series that Becky has been working on is a documentary called "The Future of Sport is Female" featuring Ryerson employees and athletes. Just released today, you can check out the documentary here: