Most volleyball players feel at home under the neon lights of a gym, with their feet firmly planted on the hardcourt. But Mike Plantinga doesn’t mind sinking his feet into the sand.
Plantinga, who played for the Golden Bear’s volleyball team last season, is one of four Canadian beach volleyball athletes competing at this year’s Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, China. And while being selected to represent his country at the games is an achievement in itself, Plantinga is hoping that his experiences at the event will be the launching pad for an appearance at the 2016 Olympic games.
“I’m very excited,” Plantinga said. “I’ve been given the opportunity to train full-time, year-round in beach volleyball with the national team. My goal is to go to the 2016 Olympics. That’s my immediate goal.”
Plantinga’s recruitment to the Canadian national beach volleyball team started in January when he received an email from the coach of the national team asking if he was interested in playing beach volleyball, partnering with François-Guy Allaire from Quebec. Plantinga could not refuse the offer and has been in Toronto since the start of June training with the national team in preparation for the Summer Universiade.
But the decision to pursue a career on the beach means that Plantinga won’t be able to continue his varsity career with the Green and Gold. He has been offered the opportunity to compete on the beach with the blessing of Bears head coach Terry Danyluk.
“I talked to [Danyluk] and he thinks it’s a great idea for me to do it. So I am going to be doing that, moving out to Toronto to be training full-time with the national team,” Plantinga said.
Plantinga first came to the U of A last year with the hopes of continuing to develop his volleyball skills, having played previously at Douglas College, a small post secondary in British Columbia. Coming to play volleyball at the university was a major change for the up-and-coming athlete, but he said he was able to develop some valuable skills over the course of the year that will carry over into his beach career.
“At the U of A I struggled a little bit, but I found a rhythm and started playing a lot better, but it was a little too late so I didn’t get to see much floor time there,” Plantinga said.
“The stuff I learned at the U of A from playing and the coaching has drastically improved my beach volleyball game because I was playing with the best players in all of Canada. My passing, my setting, my court vision got a lot better.”
Danyluk helped and watched Plantinga grow and develop his skills as an indoor player and said that Plantinga made great strides throughout the year, and will do well pursuing a career in beach volleyball.
“He was a good addition to our team last year and it’s too bad that he won’t be back [...] His heart was being outside and I wish him all the best. If you love something as much as he loves beach volleyball I am sure that he is going to do well,” Danyluk said.