Rosters have been released and WOW are we excited to kick off Challenger Event #1. The talent competing on the courts this Saturday is pretty special, and for our last Feature Friday, we wanted to highlight an amazing player who will be back in action on the volleyball courts. Matty Zbyszewski completed his University career at IPFW, where he was recognized as a 1st Team All-American and MIVA Player of the Year. He went on to compete professionally for 3 years, before officially moving to the beach and joining the Canadian Beach National Team. A 2-time Men's Beach National Champion and amazing athlete both on the court and in the sand, we are thrilled to have Matty competing in our 1st Challenger Series tournament. Learn more about Matty's career below, and don't miss his return to the courts this Saturday at Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
Club: Toronto West
University: IPFW 2000-2005
Professional: Greece, Cyrpus, Spain 2005-2008
National Team: Indoor – 2004, Beach 2006-2012/13
When you look back on your career, what is your most cherished memory of competing?
First match back after my 2nd ACL reconstruction. It was nerve wrecking, scary and exhilarating all at the same time.
Did your indoor and beach volleyball careers overlap, and what inspired you to make the switch to beach?
Yes they did. I always used beach as a summer cross training activity however never took it seriously. 2007 was the first year I was able to compete at beach nationals and lost a tight final to Mark Heese and Ahren Cadieux. That inspired me to consider beach volleyball in my future. The following year, while playing in Spain, I received a call asking if I would like to join the beach national team. Considering my health, I decided it was a good time to hang up the sneakers and give beach a shot.
What is the biggest difference competing internationally for indoor vs beach? Do you have a preference?
First and foremost, biggest difference is expectation. Indoors, I was paid to perform. Not only do you have to put up points, but the biggest expectation is that the team wins. When you win, everyone is happy, when you lose payments start getting delayed. When your performance suffers you get fired. It’s really mentally exhausting. On the beach, the expectations are yours and yours alone. My preference was always for indoor volleyball. The only reason I stopped playing was from the toll it took on my body. After 5 surgeries, my knees said enough is enough. That said, it was always hard for me to replicate the passion, emotions, swagger I had playing indoors, on the beach.
What was the last tournament or competition you competed in?
Probably some beach tournament. As for indoor, I’ve played a few indoor games over the years but the last true competition was my last pro match in Spain in 2008.
What inspired you to play in ONE Volleyball’s first Challenger Series Tournament?
I came out to play in a mens league night a month ago or so and really got the itch back. Though physically I'm not where I want to be, the fire hasn’t died down one bit.
For athletes who are close to retirement, what is the best advice you would give them for making the transition from life as a professional athlete?
This is probably the hardest thing to figure out. Everyone’s journey is different and everyone needs to discover their own path. The fire does go out in some, making the transition easier, in other it burns on. It has taken me years to transition, yet my mind still feels like I can do it. My biggest outlets have been my family and coaching.
Is there anything else about your career or your involvement in volleyball now that you would like to share?
Volleyball has been such a huge part of my life. I’ve met most of my best friends through volleyball. I met my life partner and have 2 amazing little girls, through volleyball. I had some amazing mentors through out my career who helped to shape me into a great player and hopefully a better person, and I hope I can reciprocate that as a coach to the younger generations of volleyball players in Canada.