When Gavin Schmitt wrote “it’s been an honor” after the Canadian men’s volleyball team’s Olympic run had ended in fifth place, he still wasn’t sure what the future would hold for him.
Since that historic time for Schmitt and his teammates, the 6’10″ star opposite has had time to reflect on his career, and decided he will not return to the National Team program in 2017.
“The first step is to try and get healthy and honour my contract with my pro club in Poland,” said Schmitt, 30, who is playing with Asseco Resovia in Poland’s top level volleyball league. “It is no secret that I have battled injuries over the past few years, and I would really like get over the ones that ailed me all summer and get through this season.”
He has had surgeries on both legs (in 2013 and 2016) for fractures, and other issues, but even so the decision was not an easy one for Schmitt: “I love playing for Canada and love playing with the guys; it is going to be a big change and I am sure not an easy one by any means. While I won’t be playing with the team anymore I still hope to be around at events to support and help grow the sport.”
Since first playing volleyball late in high school in his hometown of Saskatoon, SK, he developed into an imposing force and joined the National Team program just a few years later.
“I will always remember when I first made the team in 2007. I did not have a very good tryout and I was thinking I wasn’t going to make the team; then the meeting with Glenn (Hoag) and the coaches and hearing that I had in fact been selected changed my life,” he says now.
There have been many more highlights: In 2014 Schmitt led Canada in scoring in six of seven games at the FIVB World Championships as the team finished a best-ever seventh. He was the tournament’s leading scorer at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, where he notched 25 points in both Canada’s semi-final loss to Argentina and the bronze medal win over Puerto Rico.
And he counts the 2016 Olympic qualification tournament in Japan as a major moment in his career with Team Canada. “Sitting in the room with my teammates and finding out we had qualified for the Olympics is probably the most unforgettable emotional experience I have had in my playing career,” he said.
“Gavin gave everything he could, even when he was in pain,” said men’s team head coach, Glenn Hoag. “He is passionate, and had a great impact on and off the court during his career with Team Canada, and I’m certain he will stay involved and continue to help promote the sport.”
Schmitt is thankful to the many fans – including those who came out to watch him in his final World League match in Saskatoon this past June – teammates and the coaches who influenced him over the years.
“I want to thank Glenn for the mentorship throughout my national team career, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am as a person or player without him. I would like to thank all the teammates I’ve had, every single one of them helped me through the years and helped me improve and enjoy playing that much more,” Schmitt said.
“I would also like to thank my university and college coaches Keith Hansen and Brian Gavlas for working with me to build me into a player who was able to make the national team. I owe a big thanks to Adam Ewart for taking a shot on a tall skinny kid who had never played volleyball and taught me so much, really paving the foundation for my entire career. And of course my family for the unwavering support, coming to as many events as possible and always supporting me while I’m away in different continents and countries.”
Schmitt has played professionally in Greece, France, Turkey, Russia, and South Korea, where he was the league’s star player from 2009-12 with the Daejeon Samsung Bluefangs. He will continue with his professional career in Poland, where he currently resides.
“There comes a time in everyone’s life where something has to give, for me that time is now. Though I look forward to a new chapter in my life I never completely close a door behind me, you never know what the future may hold.”