Volleyball voyages

Queen’s volleyball player Joren Zeeman and coach Joely Christian-Macfarlane represent Canada at highest level of university competition

Men’s volleyball outside hitter, Joren Zeeman, unleashes a powerful serve.
Men’s volleyball outside hitter, Joren Zeeman, unleashes a powerful serve.

Two members of the Queen’s volleyball program will represent Canada at an international competition in Shenzen, China next month.

Men’s outside hitter Joren Zeeman will play for Team Canada and women’s head coach Joely Christian-Macfarlane will be on staff as an assistant coach for the Canadian women’s team.

The tournament is the highest level of Interuniversity competition, held by the International University Sport Federation (FISU). This summer’s competition, called a Universiade, will host competitions in over 20 sports. It’s the biggest competition for summer sports aside from the Summer Olympics.

Zeeman, a fourth-year Queen’s student, has been training with the Canadian team since May. He’s played for different junior national team throughout his career, but Zeeman said the FISU tournament is a big step.

“I played two years of junior national team, I’ve been to the junior worlds, and last year I was with the FISU training team,” Zeeman said. “FISU will be an even greater honour, because the level is that much higher.”

The FISU team is made up of the best available Canadian athletes from Canadian and American universities and colleges. The 14-man squad was selected from a group of 60 players in May.

“Everyone’s only priority is this team,” Zeeman said, adding that the team’s been training twice a day in Gatineau, Que. “This is our full-time job right now.”

In exchange for the heavy time commitment, Sport Canada provides FISU athletes with funding. The allowance for playing on the Canadian volleyball team is about $900 per month.

Zeeman said this tournament will provide the exposure he’ll need to start a professional career after he graduates from Queen’s. Having the FISU appearance on his resume will increase Zeeman’s chances of making a senior men’s team that represents Canada at major tournaments including the Olympics, he said.

“My goal is to take a contract in Europe and continue my career over there,” Zeeman said. “Hopefully that would also lead to chances with the senior national team.”

Zeeman said, above all, he is excited to experience a major international sporting celebration.

The Universiade will be a first for Christian-Macfarlane as a coach on the international stage, although she represented Canada as a player at high-level events like the Pan-American Games in the 1980s.

“Regardless of what the competition is, it’s an awesome experience,” she said. “I remember the opening ceremonies, standing among so many people that you’ve never even met.”

“You really learn to appreciate your country and where you came from.”

In contrast to the men’s FISU squad, Christain-Macfarlane said the makeup of the women’s team is more diverse. Some players have played at the pro level while others have only played at the university level.” “The level of play is different.” Christian-Macfarlane said. “But a big challenge is just learning to communicate with players you haven’t played with in the past.” With many women’s players having professional aspirations, Christian-Macfarlane said the FISU experience will give the athletes an idea of what the professional lifestyle is like.

“You’re going from training 10 hours a week at university to training full-time,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity just to see the international game and decide whether or not that is something that you which to pursue.”

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