Gavin Schmitt prepares for the 2016 Olympic Games
Gavin Schmitt was in grade 12 when he first started playing volleyball. Like many elite athletes, he had dabbled in a lot of different sports, with basketball being his main sport as a youth, but his decision to play volleyball turned out to be a life-changing choice.
Now a professional athlete and one of the stars on the Canadian Men’s Volleyball team, the former Kings Volleyball player is thrilled to be representing Canada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. “This is such an exciting time for all of us – for the current players and coaches, and for all of those who were such an important part of us getting here,” he says. “It’s also an important time for volleyball in Canada, and that makes me very excited for our sport.”
Gavin’s passion for volleyball started when he was on his high school team, and it has been a driving force in his life since then. After graduating from high school, he played club volleyball in his hometown of Saskatoon before joining the University of Saskatchewan Huskies for a year. His path led him to RDC, where “the size of the College and the smaller classes – and playing for Keith Hansen, who was one of the best coaches in the country – made coming to RDC an easy choice for me,” he says.
While at RDC, Keith suggested that Gavin start playing a new position on the court, which really enhanced his play. “I moved from playing middle to playing opposite,” he explains. “With my stature and style of play, this was a perfect fit for me, and it’s a position that has allowed me to keep having success throughout my career.”
Gavin, who played at RDC during the 2006-07 season, recalls how important it was for the team to win the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference provincial title at home that year. “We had a more challenging year up to that point, and we definitely had to work hard to get to where we were,” he explains. “But when it came to the tournament, we didn’t drop a set, and to do that at home was a very memorable experience.”
The team went on to win the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national title that year, and Keith notes that Gavin hit the last ball to win the championship, which was part of their eight-in-a-row run. For Gavin, his most memorable moments of playing at RDC and winning the championship games involve his teammates. “I don’t know if it’s Red Deer or what, but I found the Kings to be an incredibly tight-knit group. This is really unique, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
In the summer of 2007, Gavin started playing with the Canadian national team, and he’s been with them since. Each year, he plays and competes with the national team throughout the spring and summer, playing professionally during the fall and winter months. “The winter leagues are country-based leagues that are located in many countries worldwide,” he explains. And in his decade of playing professionally, Gavin has been all over the world, including Greece, France, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, Brazil and, this fall, he will be going to Poland. “It’s definitely been incredible to play in so many countries, with so many different languages and cultures,” he says.
When it comes to representing Canada at the Olympics, the achievement is extra-special for Gavin and his teammates, as it’s the first time the indoor men’s volleyball team has participated in the Olympics since 1992. “When you look at championship tournaments, the World Championships is a bigger event with 24 teams competing, but the Olympics is the most prestigious event in the world,” he says. “A national team does all of its building and planning based on a four-year cycle to try and get to the Olympics, so this is a massive achievement for our team. We’re so honoured to represent Canada.”