Where do you play beach volleyball in the dead of winter in Holland?
Indoors, that’s where. And that’s where the Canadian championship pro beach volleyball team of Courtenay’s Martin Reader and Red Deer’s Chaim Schalk will kick off their 2011 season.
From Jan. 4-9 at an the aptly named event centre called “The Beach,” they’ll be part of the first-ever indoor beach volleyball tourney that will award FIVB and CEV ranking points.
Reader said the idea of playing in Aalsmeer was broached to them last season at a tournament in India. “A Dutch player invited us to go there and play an indoor tournament in January. We entertained the idea but it wasn’t great timing in terms of our preseason.
“As it turned out they wanted us to go, because of my Dutch heritage, and we were a good team to sell in terms of the promotional aspect. They wanted us to be the wild card of the tournament and they’re funding our trip over there, so we couldn’t reject a free trip. We’re flying to Aalsmeer on Jan. 1.”
Reader’s says the timing is perfect. “We’ll get to start competing early and be able to adjust our training for the following months through our lessons from that first event. Rather than training blindly for four months and showing up to the first event hoping for the best, we’ll be ready to compete” when the new season starts in earnest.
“It will be a great jump start. It’s exactly what we need for our (Olympic) qualification run. We’ll be there for two to three weeks. We’ll compete at the tourney, stay in Holland and train with the Dutch national team, then maybe go to Berlin and train with the German national team indoors.”
The event is attracting many of the sport’s top athletes, including the current world champs from Germany and European champs from Holland.
Reader is also excited that, for the first time in three years, Montreal is hosting a stop on the pro tour. “When we host an international volleyball event we get host berths,” Reader said. “That means we’re entered into the main draw and … national team players get a chance to be ranked higher than they normally would be. So hosting an international event is very important in an Olympic qualification run.”
Reader says the FIVB has just released their international tour schedule and it has some 16 stops for the men. “I have a 48-page passport, and I usually go through one every two years,” noted the well-travelled Reader, adding he’s heading into the new season in the best shape of his life.
“I came back (two months ago to the Valley) with the intention of getting really strong as fast as I could. I wanted to do Olympic lifting, and I was prepared to go anywhere on the Island to do that.
“As it turns out we have a gold mine here in the Comox Valley, with (Sport BC Community Sport Hero weightlifting coach) Ed Lafleur and Marc Mazzocchi’s Titanium Crossfit.
“Titanium Crossfit is the next generation of physical training. The beauty of it is that it is quick, fun and you compete against yourself so the intensity is up to you. Unreal we have a world class facility in our backyard as this form of training will take a weekend warrior or premier athlete to the next level. In just the last two months I have made vast improvements in my athleticism, strength and conditioning.”
Reader said this is the most exciting time in his life. “It’s all coming together. With an amazing time here refocussing and building my strength, I’m now able to go on tour in the position I want to be physically and mentally and really capitalize on being No. 1 in Canada and move towards being a top 16 team in the world.
“I’m really embracing that now. It’s really about committing to that goal and saying, “Yes I can.’ Now’s the time – the qualification for the Olympics starts in April.”
Volleyball fans can follow Reader on his comprehensive new website at martinreader.ca.