Standing at 6’11”, men’s volleyball middle blocker Will Hoey is no stranger to double takes.
Volleyball players above 6’5” are a common occurrence, but only a handful of players in the OUA reach Hoey’ssky-scraping height.
His height has tactical advantages that keep opposing coaches up at night. Coach Brenda Willis notes that Hoey’s stature helps him manage the middle third of the net extremely well.
“My hands and part of my forearms are already above the net when standing,” Hoey, ArtSci ’17, said. “This allows me to get up on blocks faster and with less effort.”
But just as height creates natural advantages, it comes with its disadvantages.
“It is physically impossible for me to win a game of hide-and-go-seek,” he joked.
Games aside, finding clothes and shoes is a hassle — Hoey wears size-15 shoes, while most stores and styles only go up to 13. He added any form of travel is a frustrating exercise, with comfortable seating next to impossible. Hoey’s father is 6’9” and his mother is 6’2”.
Volleyball wasn’t always his sport of choice, but something he literally grew into. He was a hockey goalie until grade 10, when he hit his growth spurt and shot up an astonishing five inches over the summer. So he changed his focus to volleyball, but moving from the ice to the court wasn’t a seamless transition.
“I was playing in a completely new body and struggling to learn things over again,” he said. “I had a hard time hitting and passing because I never really knew where my arms ended. If I wasn’t so tall, there was no way I was making the team, I was so uncoordinated.”
Given his ability to tower over the net without even leaving the ground, you might expect Hoey to just rely on his height and not develop skills to complement his natural gifts. But Coach Willis said this wasn’t the case.
“Elite athletes with high aspirations don’t rely on their strengths,” she said, “they focus on developing their weaknesses. That’s certainly true of Will.”
With his desire to be an international player, Hoey has become well-rounded in areas that he doesn’t already have an advantage in, like ball control and passing. Willis also added that Hoey’s naturally large frame can also make quick movements on the court more difficult.
“The challenge when guys are that big is getting fast enough to close out to the outside,” she said.
At just shy of seven feet, standing out is something that Hoey has gotten used to, recognizing that he’s usually the tallest person someone has met.
With their rare nature, Hoey states that spotting another vertically-endowed person in public often leads to a shared nod as a sign of respect. And with only two other athletes — Nicholas Romanchuk, football; and Mike Shoveller, basketball — at Queen’s who measure 6’11”, they are a rare breed indeed.
While Hoey will always stand out in a crowd because of his height, he has the skill to stand out on the court as well.
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