Penticton volleyball player hungrier than ever

After missing a season due to medical issue, Nate Speijer is eager to get back on the court

PENTICTON’S NATE SPEIJER in action with the UBC-O Heat against UBC in October of 2011.

PENTICTON’S NATE SPEIJER in action with the UBC-O Heat against UBC in October of 2011.

The following passage may best describe Nate Speijer’s motivations after emergency appendectomy surgery ended his volleybal season before it began last year.

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”

That quote is from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

Speijer intends to use the pain of missing an entire season to become the best player in Canadian Interuniversity Sport and have a massive affect on the young players in the program.

“I used to just think, how good can I be? How can I help the team to win?” said Speijer, entering his fifth and final year. “Now it’s, ‘I want the guys on my team that are younger, that are looking up to me, I want them to be the best that they can be. I want to do whatever I can to help them be the best.’”

That mentality comes with getting older and experiencing more in the game he loves.

Speijer’s coach Greg Poitras will be thrilled with that attitude. Poitras said Speijer can offer leadership in many ways.

“Year after year Nate has shown his commitment to our volleyball program,” he said. “He has done this because he wants to be the best and he wants his team to have success.  Nate has grown as a person and as an elite athlete. He now needs to pass that on to his younger teammates.”

Being with Canada’s national B team opened the eyes of Speijer, a Pen High grad, on how volleyball can be played. Training with national team players showed him the different aspects of the sport.

“If you’re a guy that is going to get 30 kills or a bunch of blocks, that’s all fine and dandy,” said Speijer. “When you get to that level, everyone can do that. It’s the little things that count. It brings back the things you learn in mini-ball or in junior camps.”

Those things include passing, setting and chasing free balls.

“They are not highlight reel stuff. That’s the stuff that wins games,” he said. “If you mess up on one of those, and give the other team a point, that very well could be the match.”

Speijer said that every one (on Canada’s team that went to the Pan Am Games) is that good. Last season was difficult on Speijer, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter, because he felt physically fit to play. His surgeons felt differently and wouldn’t clear him to play so it became a waiting game.

“It was awful. It was easily one of the hardest things I ever had to do,” said Speijer of missing the season.

Going through that has made him hungry. During a recent team scrimmage, the former 2007 AAA provincial high school champion was so glad to be back on the court. Speijer knows the Heat has a young team, but they are talented.

“We want to win as many games as possible, we want to do whatever we can to see how far we can go,” he said.

With the experience Speijer brings, including as a former national team player, he talked about doing his best to get the most out of the young players. He wants to make them the best volleyball players possible. It’s a role he loves having.

“Nate will have to continue being one of the most well rounded players in the league,” said Poitras. “It may be a cliché, but he really does need make his teammates better.  From an offensive standpoint, Nate will carry the load and because of that, he will need to explore all sorts of ways to score and stress out our opponent.”

There is one thing that impressed Poitras about Speijer’s return.

“After a year off, one would think that a player off Nate’s cailbre would be somewhat rusty,” he said. “Nate returned to training camp physically and mentally ready.”

“I want to play so bad,” said Speijer, whose first league game is Oct. 27.