The reports of Martin Reader’s retirement from beach volleyball were not greatly exaggerated.
After realizing his long-time goal of representing Canada at the Olympics, the 28-year-old Comox athlete is now focussing his energy on a career on the land instead of a sport on the sand.
The decision came over the Christmas holidays, and only after much consideration. “I was playing at the national team training centre in Toronto in November, and mentally I was not there. I was focussed on other stuff,” Reader told the Record.
“I was at 60 per cent of my physical max and had tweaked my meniscus. After taking some time off, I just wasn’t feeling great. I knew I wasn’t in high performance mode. I then allowed myself to think what my life would be like without beach volleyball,” said Reader.
“I’ve always been pursuing other things outside the sport (modelling, sport marketing and other entrepreneurial endeavours), and there was just so much momentum coming off the Games. I couldn’t sleep for two nights. I was too busy … getting interested in what that life (without beach volleyball) would look like.
“I narrowed it down to five opportunities that were very viable and very exciting. I left the decision until the day after Christmas to really decide whether I was going to retire or continue. I wound up calling my new partner Sam Schachter (the 2012 teammate of Comox’s Maverick Hatch) saying I couldn’t give him 100 per cent. There were some great life opportunities that I couldn’t miss out on, and that it was time to change my focus and build on those. The sport has been an amazing influence in my life but I need to start a career.”
Reader, who with partner Josh Binstock tied for 17th in their Olympics debut at the 2012 Summer Games in London, England, said a lot of people could not understand why he would retire from the sport when the 2016 Rio Olympics was a realistic goal. “The time was right. My priorities have changed,” said Reader. “I feel I have accomplished a lot in my pursuit of volleyball and I can impact more peoples lives off the court now than I can on the court. My goal was always to qualify for the Olympics, and I’ve used that mission to propel my other life pursuits. And it all came together – who would have known?” a smiling Reader said.
While he won’t be competing at Rio, Reader said, “I would love to be there as a commentator or involved with the sport somehow in some capacity. I have every intention to be part of the 2015 Pan American Games (in Toronto) from an organizational standpoint. It’s an amazing opportuniy to help out other athletes. I’m just trying to give back.”
His Olympic dream was not an inexpensive pursuit, and Reader notes athlete funding has been cut this year. “They’re expecting us to do even more with less,” he said. Volleyball Canada is going through a transitional phase, having just named Steve Anderson the new head coach of their High Performance Beach Volleyball Programs.
“I sat on the board for that as athlete rep and it was an amazing process. It’s an exciting time for the program and there’s a lot of great young athletes coming up. For me to sit there holding on to something when there’s four other guys who could replace me who are real talented … it feels good seeing them come up and have the opportunity to help them,” said Reader, adding he expects Hatch to have his best season ever.
Reader is not certain in what capacity he might be involved with the national program. “I would love to come in (to the national training facility) once a week and help coach. Obviously it’s been a big part of my life. My goals are to get into event management and sponsorship, and corporate leadership outings where I can bring the athletes in and have them share and lead.”
Reader would have to fit any work with the national program around his new Strive Conditioning and Nutrition enterprise. “I’ve been asked to be the celebrity trainer for the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto. It’s an amazing property, really high-end. I can train business folk like an athlete and incorporate goal-setting and mentorship into that. It’s unique in that I’ll be the only Olympian trainer in Toronto.”
Reader will not be working for the hotel, but running his own business inside their newly-completed building. “I want to be a quality trainer and help people achieve their goals,” he said. “This is where my passion is.”
Reader was one of many Olympians who visited hospitals over the holidays, and he’s stepping up his community involvement in other ways – he is the new eastern Canadian ambassador for 60 Minutes Kids Club, a Canada-wide charity that goes into elementary schools “and educates kids on nutrition and lifestyle choices that will reduce the rate of obesity and inspire kids to be active. Their activation rate is about 70 per cent, which is very strong. They have some of the best messaging I’ve ever come across. I’m very excited to be part of this.”
After living out of a suitcase and travelling the world for the past several years, Reader is looking forward to the next chapter in his life. “You need to take a risk. If you don’t risk anything you won’t gain anything. I feel this is a pretty calculated risk. There’s a lot of growth involved here. I’ve been hitting a volleyball over a net for a long time. I’m not saying I wasn’t growing in that, but I’d like to grow other facets of my life.”
Reader says details of his new endeavours will be posted at martinreader.ca and adds he might stage another Beach Bash in Courtenay one day. “A lot of people have asked for it,” he said, after the inaugural tournament proved so successful in 2008.