First Nations Volleyball Athlete Dallas Soonias Retires Before Olympics
After 13 years with the men’s national team, Dallas Soonias has announced that he will not play in the Olympics due to injury, and is retiring from the program.
Not only was the 6-foot-7-in. Soonias a huge presence on the court, he was also an inspiration to all youth as the first First Nations player on the team, and hoped to represent his heritage at the Olympic Games.
“The timing of my career-ending injuries couldn’t be worse. It’s truly depressing to come so close to the goals I’ve been pursuing for years, only to go down a couple months before fruition,” said Soonias, who also played pro in various leagues for the past 10 years.
“Thank you to all the teammates, coaches and therapists I’ve had over the years – whether it was for a week stint or a decade, learning from and observing these people has taught me how the world works, and how I want to contribute to it. Shout out to the aboriginal youth who’ve helped motivate me over the last few years.”
Men’s head coach Glenn Hoag said: “We will miss Dallas’s contribution on and off the court. He is very talented player and it is very unfortunate that he will not be able to be with us in Rio. His contribution, however, did help pave the way for the team on the road to qualification, and we owe him gratitude and wish him the best.”
Soonias was starting right side in 2013 when Canada won its World League pool and made it to the finals in Argentina, and was a member of the team that took a best-ever seventh place for Canada at the World Championship in 2014, but has been on and off the roster since due injury.
“Lots of people will look at the big wins in recent years as the highlights, but for me what I’ll remember and miss the most is playing short court before practice every day before we got down to the real work,” Soonias reflected. “That’s when it was boiled down to pure joy and laughter like it was when we were silly kids.”
Soonias was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on April 25, 1984, but has called Red Deer, Alberta, his hometown. He is registered in Cape Crocker reserve in Ontario. He played for Red Deer College and then for the University of Alberta Golden Bears winning three national gold medals and a silver in his four years. He is engaged to women’s team member Jaimie Thibeault, also a First Nations athlete.
“Watching youngsters take up the game had a big part in why I pushed for as long as I did. Never being able to have ‘Olympian’ beside my name like the rest of my teammates I’m sure will always bother me, but it was nice watching the program grow stronger over the last 13 years to get them there.”