News, entertainment and sports from Langara College journalism students

Western-Canadian volleyball players left behind

With the Canadian Beach Volleyball team stationed in Toronto, few from B.C. make the team

Professional beach volleyball players train with locals. Becca Clarkson Photo
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Reported by Becca Clarkson

Professional training and opportunities headquartered on the other side of the country make it difficult for Western-Canadian athletes to be consistently a part of the national beach volleyball team.

Because beach volleyball players must train with the national team in Toronto in order to be carded — or qualify for a government stipend — few British Columbians actually end up on the squad.

Brian Hiebert, co-director of West Coast Beach Volleyball Society, moved from Port Moody to Toronto in 2000 to train with the national team. In the years since, only 12 other athletes from Western Canada have made the same trek.

“B.C.’s athletes are seeing what’s happening out in Toronto, we’ve seen the success of Canada and now we want to repeat it,” Hiebert said, adding that the country is big enough for multiple hubs.

1. (From left to right) Teammates Matty LeBourdais and Jonny Wiskar train at 6Pack Indoor Beach in preparation for the Play with the Pros, Dec. 2. – Becca Clarkson Photo

WeCoBeVo is fundraising for a Vancouver training hub through their second Play with the Pros event, a tournament where local beach volleyball players compete with Olympians, scheduled this year for Saturday, Dec. 2.

Majority of players on national team are from Ontario

Two-thirds of the players on the Canadian Beach Volleyball Team are from Ontario, which the executive director of WeCoBeVo, Jodi McIntosh, equates to travel expenses stacking up for athletes outside of that province.

“There’s not a lack of participation here, we’re just trying to help create that path for kids to dream big,” McIntosh said.

Five thousand of the $13,000 funds raised last year were used to send five players from western Canada to represent their nation in China where the 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championships were hosted.

The money covered the players’ flights, accommodations, coaching, entry fees and food.

Some Western-Canadian’s make the trek

Calgary born 2016 Rio Games Olympian and WeCoBeVo’s president, Ben Saxton, moved to Vancouver 11 years ago because it’s warmer climate allows for more time training outdoors. He’ll return as a player for this year’s tournament with fellow Olympians, April Ross of Costa Mesa, California and Martin Reader of Comox Valley, B.C.

“There are lots of talented people who just can’t afford to follow this avenue,” said Saxton, who has the fallback of financial help and support from his family.

According to McIntosh, WeCoBeVo plans to apply for non-profit status to obtain grants and hopes a hub will be formed by summer 2019.

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