It’s not uncommon for Elmira’s Judah Verbeek to spend a fair bit of his time on a volleyball court – indoor or beach – but the time commitment is a whole lot higher now that he’s been named to Team Ontario as part of the under-16 (16U) squad.
In fact, he’ll be in Toronto this weekend under the watchful eye of the Ontario Volleyball Association (OVA), which will also have the 15-year-old Grade 11 student at Woodland Christian School training with the 18U team. This is the first of many weekends this summer he’ll be training or in tournaments.
“They do all kinds of training. There’s a sport psychologist. A fitness trainer. A nutritionist …,” he said of the Toronto experience.
His play with the Kitchener-Waterloo Predators and some time with the 17U provincial team as a call-up provided plenty of exposure to OVA officials.
“They watched me at the provincials – they were scouting us,” Verbeek explained.
Typically an outside hitter, he says his strong suit his hitting and blocking, with the approach being different for the indoor game, which features six players aside, as opposed to beach volleyball, which is played two-up.
Having taken up volleyball four years ago, he’s seen a steady rise in his game, fuelled by his passion for it.
“I was at a camp in summer – I tried it out, and I really enjoyed it,” he said of that initial exposure to the game.
Verbeek is already training a minimum of five or six days a week. On the off days, there’s some kind of stretching or related activity. Outside of volleyball, he enjoys swimming, biking, fishing, kayaking and, in the winter, snowmobiling.
That training schedule is expected to intensify after this weekend’s trip to Toronto for the OVA.
The association identifies the track he’s on as “pre-Olympic training.” It’s a goal he’s keeping in mind, though not getting ahead of himself at this point. There’s much work to be done before then, and more growing to do, though he’s already 6’2” – like basketball, height is an asset on the volleyball court.
He’s to be partnered up for the 16U beach team with a player from Cambridge, which is where he trains. As a blocker, he’s paired with a defender, but with the 18U experience, he’s still waiting to hear more details.
When he gets to Toronto, there may be a few familiar faces, but many will be unknown to him, especially the older players.
“I’ve played against some of them in indoor tournaments – the 16U guys – but most of them I don’t know.”
There’ll be plenty more chances to get familiar with them, however, as just about every weekend this summer will find him at a training event or tournament, largely in Toronto but also in North Bay and Ottawa.
It’s a big commitment, he acknowledges – “Yeah, but it’s fun.”