How a tiny school from Langley became Canada's volleyball factory
A small B.C. university that's pumping out Olympic-level sports talent
A Langley B.C. university — about twice the size of a large Metro Vancouver high school — has become Canada's premier volley ball talent factory.
Trinity Western University (TWU) is producing a lot of Olympic hopefuls out of its 4,000 student body.
"We really try to create a culture where the kids just want to play," said TWU men's volleyball coach Ben Josephson.
"One of the first questions I ask a recruit is, 'Do you love it?' If they love to play and they love their teammates, they just play like crazy."
Just a few of the talented players emerging from TWU include the Rio-nominated men's Canadian indoor volleyball team members Rudy Verhoeff, Dan Jansen Van Doorn, Steve Marshall and Rio-bound beach player Chaim Schalk.
"They recruit not only great talent but also great characters," Verhoeff said.
What's the secret?
TWU is a national volleyball powerhouse, winning two Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) gold medals since Josephson took over the men's program in 2007.
He looks for five things in new recruits:
- Jumping ability.
- Arm speed.
- Work ethic.
Josephson said all four Olympians check each of those boxes.
"I'm not surprised these are four of the young men that get to represent Canada because they are incredible human beings and their work ethic and talents are off the charts," he said.
"It almost takes some screws loose in their dedication to their craft and these guys are just incredible."
Steve Marshall credits Josephson's coaching.
"He's done a really good job of creating a professional environment and it makes it easy for us to be successful," said Steve Marshall.
Winning is a great recruiting tool but that's not the only reason some of the country's top high school players choose TWU.
"It's such a tight knit community and when guys come in and see how close the volleyball team is, it's cool to see how everyone is really good buddies," said Schalk.
The bond players form with one another in the gym often lasts long after they graduate.
"A lot of national...teammates I've had, they graduate and then that part of their life is done," Jansen Van Doorn said.
"Trinity athletes stay connected ... [former] players can mentor you through."
TWU won't just be represented on the volleyball court and on the beach in Brazil next month.
Adam Froese is part of Canada's field hockey team and Alison Jackson is a women's cycling team alternate.