It was an otherwise innocuous Monday when the Canadian beach volleyball community reached and unleashed its peak fury which, because it’s Canada, really wasn’t much fury at all. More just a few confused and disgruntled fans reacting to a picture Tri Bourne had put up of Chaim Schalk.
No, no. Not just Chaim Schalk.
“American Chaim Schalk,” Bourne put on Instagram.
For nearly a decade, Schalk had represented Canada on the beach. He had been an Olympian for Canada on the beach. He had made international podiums for Canada on the beach. Raised in Red Deer, Alberta, with a habit of punctuating sentences with ‘eh?’ and a humility and affability that you just don’t find much in Southern California, Schalk was, by all accounts, Canadian to the core.
So what was he doing, on Monday, May 6, wearing a USA Volleyball shirt, taking pictures, doing promos, looking like, well, “American Chaim Schalk”?
Just running out the clock until his international volleyball purgatory is over.
“I got a lot of messages on that,” Schalk said of Bourne’s post of Schalk at USA Volleyball’s Media Day. “A lot of people still didn’t know. They were like ‘What does this mean? Why do you have a USA shirt on? This is messed up!’”
At the end of the 2017 FIVB season, Schalk announced that he would be making the transfer from Canada to the United States, competing for the Yanks instead of the Leafs. It meant a hefty fee and a two-year hiatus on the world tour, but it also meant access to USAV’s resources, the ability to live and compete and train full-time in Southern California, the opportunity to represent arguably the biggest powerhouse beach volleyball nation on the planet.
And, while nobody wants to lose two years of their international careers, in what could be their prime, the timing was perfect for Schalk. In May, Schalk’s wife, Lane Carico, also a professional beach player, gave birth to their daughter, Koa. With Schalk unable to compete around the globe, he’s been able to spend time at home, helping with Carico, helping with Koa, witnessing the miraculous growth that is the first few months of a child’s life.
“It’s been a blur the past couple months with the baby, just helping out as much as I can. It’s been so nice to be home and help out with Lane and it’s been so nice with the AVPs because I take off Thursday and then I’ll be back Sunday night,” Schalk said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “It’s been a perfect time to have a kid because I haven’t felt like I needed to be away and if I was away for a couple weeks that would be a little tougher for right now.”
This is not to say that Schalk doesn’t get antsy. He watched World Championships in Hamburg. He watched the Gstaad Major. They’re his two favorite stops on tour. He saw the Instagram posts, the ones athletes just cannot help but putting up – cups of coffee in the mountains, the stunning green of Gstaad, the mountain biking, the crowds, the stadiums.
“Everyone just has to do their water photo and the morning coffee, ‘Not a bad place to wake up to,’” Schalk said, shaking his head. “C’mon guys! That makes me itch a little bit.”
In November, he can alas scratch that itch, getting back out onto the world tour, representing a different set of colors, a different flag, a different federation. So, Canada beach volleyball nation, soon enough, you’ll have to accept this simple reality.
He’s not just Chaim Schalk anymore. He’s American Chaim Schalk.