Former Laker, Heat thriving in Denmark

Caitlin Nyhus has been a key piece to the success of Denmark's Holte IF in the Danish VolleyLiga.

PEN HIGH LAKER AND UBC-O grad Caitlin Nyhus sets the ball in play for a teammate to hammer it into the opposition zone during Danish VolleyLiga play with Holte IF. Nyhus has won two VolleyLiga championships and two silver medals in six seasons.

Caitlin Nyhus’ volleyball resume is impressive.

In five years with the UBC-O Heat team, she won 88 of 99 matches. She is a two-time CCAA national champion. A national bronze medallist. Three-time provincial champ. Provincial silver medallist twice.

READ MORE: Heat put on Nyhus during emotional ceremony

She’s been adding to that in Denmark. Entering her sixth season with Holte IF she has won two Danish VolleyLiga championships and has lost the championship twice.

“It was great,” she said of the championship win adding that her team finished second or third over a 10-year period.

In her first season they won against their rivals, Brondby VK.

“That was really cool,” she said. “We had a big turnout in the fan section and it was just really cool. To experience it and it happens in another language, you are just feeding off the emotion.”

What Nyhus enjoys most about playing professionally in Europe is that she is still playing.

“I was not ready to be a recreational player, I’m too competitive for that,” she said. “I haven’t started getting worse yet.”

Playing overseas almost didn’t happen and Nyhus said it was a “complete fluke”.

After contacting several people she knew, Nyhus, 28, had given up and was ready to travel when a former UBC-O coach connected her with a former player at Holte IF as they needed a setter. The opportunity happened really quickly and Nyhus found herself traveling to a country she knew nothing about. She also didn’t know a soul.

“It was quite an adjustment,” said Nyhus, who speaks Danish fluently.

The VolleyLiga is semi pro and not all the players get paid. She does, initially $1,000 a month. Nyhus said that is the standard for low level leagues. Top leagues in France, Italy, Germany and Turkey pay more. What she got paid allowed her to travel, but while attending university in Kelowna, she learned to live cheap. Now that she is working towards a masters of science with the University of Copenhagen, she offered to be paid a bit less. She is also not playing full-time to focus on her studies. Nyhus has benefited from moving on one from setting coach to another. While playing for the Heat, she learned the basic techniques under Steve Manuel as well as the mental side. In Denmark, her coach is very technical.

“I’m a way better player,” said Nyhus.

Playing volleyball in Denmark is no different to Nyhus than when she was with the Heat, though her club team plays faster. The main difference was in training.

“In Kelowna it’s like pat on the back, you’re doing great. It’s all supportive,” she said. “Whereas I get there and I miss a dig and my libero yells at me. Caitlin, what the (expletive)? Get that ball up. You can easily get that. ‘Oh, sure yeah.’ I had to get used to that. Everyone was very direct and in your face. Everyone held each other so accountable. It wasn’t just the coaches job. By the end of season, I was holding other people accountable.”

This included the officials for making what she deemed were really bad calls. Nyhus said a lot is missed since there is no linemen.

“My teammates don’t know how I don’t get kicked out,” she said.

As much as Nyhus loves playing, she said this may be her final year. She wants to focus on her life while still living in Denmark.

“I love Denmark,” said Nyhus, who in December, was among 150 international students to be invited to a conference in Denmark at the headquarters of Arla Foods, the fourth-largest dairy company in the world. “Everyone has a masters degree. Getting a job is next to impossible without one.”

Besides school and volleyball, Nyhus said she has no life and would like to change that.

Nyhus has been playing because she loves the sport and said playing sports is a good way to go abroad.

“It’s a lot more fun to go with sport,” she smiled.

Nyhus said the culture in Denmark is wonderful and there is so much history in the country.

“I love the way of life,” she said. “I have lots of friends. They feel a family. It means a lot. I didn’t expect that.”

As for the conference Nyhus attended, it provided the students the chance to meet senior executives from a number of businesses, including Arla, Mærsk, momondo, COWI, Unity Technologies, and Systematic.

”It was an honour to meet the open-minded, innovative and very experienced company representatives. It tells a lot about Denmark as a society that values a flat hierarchy so I, as a student, can encounter all these influential executives from international companies in such an informal environment”, said Nyhus in a press release. “I had never thought of trying to make a career here when I first came to play volleyball in 2011, but now that I am six months away from completing my MSc, I feel like Denmark is actually the perfect place to start my professional career as it is such an internationally-minded country with a high standard of living. After meeting with the representatives from the different companies, I realized that the need and want for international employees here is extremely high and there are many opportunities for foreigners wanting to stay and build a life here.”

Nyhus is part of the Youth Goodwill Ambassadors of Denmark, a global talent and career development program. Since 2012, a community of more than 800 young professionals have used their network to create global cooperation and future career opportunities in Denmark while studying and living in the country.

“I do not think students realize the global opportunities there are out there for them. I know it is a big decision to move away from what is comfortable, but it does not have to be forever, it can be to start a career,” said Nyhus. “Canada will always be there but an experience working abroad with fresh knowledge and skills from university is not always going to be there. I think it is invaluable experience to leap out of your comfort zone and bring some Canadian flair to other markets; because to be honest, Canadians are amazing and other countries recognize that.”

Written with files from UBC-O.


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