University of Alberta setter and Calgary, AB native Brett Walsh was recently named to the Canadian Men’s National Volleyball Team. Canada will compete at the upcoming World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Japan that will take place from May 28th to June 5th, and while it’s unclear whether Walsh will be joining them at this point, we reached out to Walsh about being named to the training squad. The tournament will be the last opportunity for Canada to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.The top finishing team from the Asian region, and the three next best teams will earn a trip to Rio. You can find the breakdown here. If Canada qualifies it will be for the first time since they finished 10th at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Dash sent Walsh a few questions, and the interview went as follows:
Firstly, congratulations on being named to the Senior A training squad. How did you find out about being added to the roster?
Thank you! It was the night before my last final exam, and I just got a call from one of the National Team assistant coaches. He informed me of the news and told me to make sure I am ready to go! It was a very exciting call to receive.
Does this mean you might get an opportunity to play in Japan?
Yes that’s correct, I am one of 20 athletes eligible to go to Japan for the competition, 12-14 of which will actually travel.
You got your first taste of international ball against Brazil last September, can you tell us what it was like to play against a living legend like Lucas Saatkamp?
It was a very memorable experience that’s for sure. Growing up a huge volleyball fan and watching a ton of volleyball videos, it was a surreal experience to not only play against, but also alongside so many of my childhood idols. Looking across the net at Lucas was nerve racking that’s for sure, but extremely exciting.
What are the biggest differences you noticed between playing at the college and international level? What adjustments did you have to make?
The international level is just bigger, stronger and faster in all regards. There is less time for decision-making, and far less room for error. There is a constant pressure to perform, which is an exciting challenge.
How early will you start training with the team, and what are your goals going into the summer?
I have been in Gatineau, QC where the training center is for four days now, as a part of the National B Team tryout camp, which has been great. As far as when I will join the A team I still don’t know. My personal goals have remained consistent throughout the course of my career, and they are simple: To try my best to be better than I was the day before, and just give it my all every time I hit the court. As long as I do those things, then whatever happens happens!
If you are named to the Japan roster, there is a stacked line up of teams, who would you be most excited to see on the other side of the net? Anybody you grew up idolizing?
There will be so many amazing players that I’ve watched for so many years it is hard to pinpoint, but getting the chance to see and play against Earvin N’Gapeth, who is arguably the best volleyball player in the world right now would be an amazing experience for sure. Bartosz Kurek of Poland is also an incredible athlete, and getting to see him live would be quite the spectacle.
You were able to help re-establish the Golden Bears as a perennial powerhouse, how has your game evolved over your time at U of A?
My game has seen great strides from my time at Alberta. Terry Danyluk, the school’s long time volleyball coach has been an amazing mentor for me not only as a volleyball player but as a person. I have been very fortunate to have Brock Davidiuk, a former setter for Team Canada, dedicate a lot of time to helping me improve my game, which I am extremely thankful for. Both Terry and Brock, as well as the rest of our coaching staff have been in a ton of time and are all very instrumental in my development thus far.
Can you tell us a little bit about that semi-final loss to Trinity Western University at CIS Nationals, and what the team looks like moving into your final year of eligibility?
It was disappointing to be on the losing end of that match, no question about that. However, we fought hard and left it all out there, and can hold our heads high. Going into next year, losing some valuable 5th year experienced players, like Ryley, John, BY (Brendan Yao) and Chris Jones will be some holes to fill but I am more than confident in my teammates to step up to the challenge. We’ve got a great young recruiting class, and some 3rd and 4th year players who have been training extremely hard for the last few years day in and day out.
Do you plan to play professionally after your time at U of A, and if so, what would be your ideal situation?
I have dreamed of being a professional volleyball player for a long time, so I would love to go overseas after my time at school. Places like Italy, France and Germany all have great professional leagues, and getting a chance to be in any of those places would be a dream come true. If I had my way I would love to play in Italy, because the league is so strong top to bottom and there are so many amazing players.
For those of you who missed Walsh’s first international cap, here are some highlights.
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