After a long flight I got picked up at the airport by 3 of my new team mates who for the next 3 hours answered a lot of my questions about Canada as well as asking me all about Australia. We eventually arrived in Lloydminster, Alberta where I would arrive at my new home, Lakeland College. Lakeland College is on the east border of Alberta right next to Saskatchewan. It is quite a small school with approximately 2000 students on the Lloydminster campus but has a huge passion for its sport. Lakeland plays in the ACAC (where many Australians including Luke Brisbane, James Haythorne and multiple interstate volleyballers play) which is regarded as the second highest College/University volleyball league in Canada. Unfortunately for the Rustlers the school generally offers 2 year diplomas and often has students transfer to larger University’s to further their studies. This places a huge burden on the sports programs who develop young players only to see them leave and thrive at other schools.
The first week consisted of getting everything set up such as my new bedroom (I live on Campus in houses that fit 8 people), finding out where all my classes are and learning a whole bunch of new names. Our volleyball squad this year was 22 athletes which automatically meant I had heaps of mates who looked out for me from the start. We also have 2 other international players from Honduras who can often relate to me when I get confused about Canadian culture/lingo. I am studying general business which is a 2 year diploma and so far quite enjoyable.
Now for the volleyball side of things. Generally we will train for 90 minutes Monday-Thursday evenings after doing weights during the day, then play Friday and Saturday night at 8pm. As the trainings are only 90 minutes it is often a high intensity session with lots of competitive gameplay. Consistently having 20+ guys at training has allowed us to do some pretty cool drills and it also makes it extremely competitive for playing time. Only 14 people are allowed to travel/dress each game so it makes every training very important to ensure you can be part of that group. This lead to a strange feeling in our preseason games where we would ‘play our bench’ and rest all 7 starters so that everybody could get their chance to prove themselves. On the bright side I’ve managed to earn myself the role of starting libero which I’m extremely happy with. It was also a huge adjustment to change to using the green, white and red molten volleyballs as they travel much faster than a Mikasa and are very different to pass.
We have just had our first weekend of competition where we played an away game on Friday night, then both teams travelled back to Lloydminster to play at home. We lost the first away game 3-0 then managed to come home and after losing the first set, win the match 3-1. There was quite a decent crowd at both games and it was a very strange feeling to be playing in front of an away crowd where they would be constantly trying to throw us off our focus and loudly cheering for our opponents, kind of like playing against Heathfield at schools cup. On the contrary it was an incredible feeling to play and win in front of a home crowd where every point we win is celebrated by everybody in the gym.
That’s all from me for now. I honestly couldn’t be happier to be living out my dream at such a nice College. For all GMVA athletes I highly recommend that you dream big as this pathway is extremely achievable, as well as an excellent way to travel and potentially earn yourself free education. I would also recommend contacting Lakeland if you are looking to find your way over to Canada as they have an awesome campus and great volleyball program to get yourself familiar with College volleyball. If anybody has any questions about how the process works or what college is like chuck me a message or email me at Mattpeck14@gmail.com.