JASPER, Alberta — What I did on my Canadian vacation: Well, volleyball, of course.
I don’t plan it, but it never seems to fail. Really, this story is about grass volleyball in remote Jasper, of all places — a bigger occurrence than you can imagine — but first a personal travelogue.
From the time I was in Berlin in 2005 to later this month in Tokyo, volleyball just keeps popping up unexpectedly on my vacations. After all, volleyball is what I do every day, but …
So in 2005, we went to Berlin for a few days before heading to Denmark. And wouldn’t you know it, but the FIVB World Beach Championships were there. That was the first time I ever saw beach volleyball in person — loved it — and after, had a happenstance great meeting with Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May, who were quite hilarious after winning.
The next summer we were in Colorado. This was long before I started writing for Volleyball Magazine or Ed Chan and I bought it and turned it into VolleyballMag.com just more than three years ago.
Anyway, we drove into Boulder and there was a big sign announcing that the AVP was there that week. So we parked, walked into the Colorado University football stadium, where the field was covered in sand, and walked on down to watch practice. I’ll never forget the look on Priscilla Lima’s face (we go way back to when she played in college at Louisiana-Lafayette) as she said while peppering, “Lee, what are you doing here?”
And then we saw Kerri and Misty and I asked if they happened to know yet where I would be vacationing the next summer. We all laughed at the coincidence.
Before we get to volleyball in Jasper, later this month I’m headed to Tokyo before ending up in Gwangju, South Korea, to play in the FINA World Masters Water Polo (yeah, really, I play age-group water polo). Which is why I’m here in Canada, because I play for a team from Calgary, and we have a training camp this weekend.
But in Japan during the time I’m, there is the pre-Olympic test event, the FIVB four-star Tokyo. So in between eating sushi and catching a Yomiuri Giants pro baseball game, there will be volleyball. Seriously, I had no idea there would be a big FIVB tournament going on when I booked the trip.
So back to Jasper, population 4,590 and as pretty a place as there is with visitors here from all over the world. We drove in Tuesday afternoon and decided to cruise this small, remarkably picturesque mountain town to check it out.
And there on the big fields by the town recreation center and high school were volleyball players. As it turned out, more than 140 in all spanning 14 courts. Mostly high school-aged girls and boys having a blast on the grass.
We had to stop and I found Andre Arsenault, a former standout Canadian college libero who is now a third-grade teacher in Edmonton. Arsenault, 25, has been running this camp for quite a while and, like me, couldn’t believe the coincidence that I’d stumbled upon it.
After all, volleyball is happening here, eh.
Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes just won the FIVB World Beach Championships. What’s more, when I went back to watch camp for a bit the next day it was raining and they kept on, as it if was a sunny day.