Jason Wildeboer always knew that volleyball would be a significant component of his post-secondary education. Although he initially considered attending a public university, Redeemer’s athletic culture soon made it the obvious choice.
“The athletics program at [that university] was all about high performance and money,” he says. “Redeemer’s program is centered around caring for student-athletes as people. Obviously, we want to succeed, and hard work breeds that, but it’s more about our character and how it will develop over the next four to five years.”
Brett Jenkins, Wildeboer’s teammate, was drawn in by the way Redeemer’s mission was articulated by Brad Douwes, the former men’s volleyball coach.
Redeemer’s program is centered around caring for student-athletes as people. Obviously, we want to succeed, and hard work breeds that, but it’s more about our character and how it will develop over the next four to five years.
“One of the first things [Douwes] said to me was that he couldn’t wait to see me grow as an athlete, a person and in my faith,” says Jenkins “I didn’t expect that, and it was amazing to see how much he incorporated faith into the team.”
Their instincts couldn’t have been better. In March 2022, the Redeemer Royals men’s volleyball team qualified for the CCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship in Quebec City. After valiantly going up against other heavyweights such as the Camosun Chargers, Saint-Jean Geants and Humber Hawks, they finished fourth overall. Wildeboer attributes this triumph to the aforementioned emphasis on character and the team’s cohesive, supportive nature.
“Most of the guys have been together since our first year in 2018,” he explains. “In university sports, you always want the older athletes to show the younger athletes what it means to represent a school. This year, we were able to put that into practice and, after not being able to play for two years because of COVID, our performance showed how grateful we were to be back in a gym.”
Ben Siebenga, a first-year team member, was immediately impressed with the intense dedication shown throughout the season.
“Since the beginning of the year, we knew we had the chance to make it this far,” he says. “Our motto was ‘hay in the barn,’ which basically means you put in as much hard work as you can to reap the rewards later.”
Despite enduring some tough first sets, the team stayed motivated by committing to do their best for each other.
“Even though we lost the first sets in 90 per cent of our games, we still won most of them because we identified our mistakes and knew we were in control,” says Jenkins.
“We held each other to high expectations, and I think that really helped us have the same mindset,” says Siebenga. “We prepared well, we knew what we were up against and we took it one point at a time.”
At the championship, Wildeboer received the CCAA Exemplary Leadership Award, and Jenkins was named a Championship All-Star. However, they both affirm that individual accolades drastically pale in comparison to what the team accomplished as a whole.
“My award could’ve gone to any one of our starters. I was just lucky that it was me,” says Jenkins. “At the end of the day, we work together, and I wouldn’t have gotten it without them.”
“To be fourth in the country is an honour and way more special than any single recognition,” says Wildeboer. “Ultimately, what means the most to me is that I’m able to say I love every single guy on our team.”
It’s important to take a step back, remember that God has given you those gifts and abilities and push forward.
For Siebenga, who still has three more years left as a student-athlete, this year served as an amazing preview for what he hopes is to come.
“The coaching staff and the team have the ability to influence my life even more. As of right now, I’ve definitely learned resilience and discipline just by watching our starters play. Even if they drop a set, they keep going and don’t let it get to them. It’s important to take a step back, remember that God has given you those gifts and abilities and push forward.”