Kamloops, BC-Five years goes fast when you are a student/athlete. Just ask one. Daniel Eikeland Rod of Oz, Norway is experiencing that feeling right now.
Rod is the lone fifth year player on the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s volleyball team. Despite the team having six matches left in its Canada West regular season, Rod is preparing for his final home matches this weekend (Feb 10-11) on the Warner Rentals Court at the Tournament Capital Centre.
The WolfPack are entertaining the University of Winnipeg Wesmen.
Eikeland Rod remembers arriving in Vancouver, BC in the summer of 2012 after receiving a scholarship offer from TRU head coach Pat Hennelly. “I had friends who were going to UNB and Medicine Hat on scholarships. I didn’t know anything about the process so I got on it late. I made a video of myself and youtubed it. Pat was the first person who responded. I didn’t know where Kamloops was. It has turned out to be a great place for me to go to school and play volleyball.”
Eikeland Rod’s greatest memory as a member of the WolfPack came in 2013-14 when in the first round of the Canada West playoffs, the team took the University of Saskatchewan Huskies to a third and deciding match with TRU winning it in five. The match was played in the cozy confines of the old TRU gym. He remembers it like it was yesterday: “ I did get to play. It was so intense. Playing in that gym with the baseball guys there. You could play a game in the TRU gym with just the baseball team and you would think there were a thousand people there. It is just so loud. It was so much fun to play.”
What’s his least favorite moment? He says his second year (2013-14), the team went to Hawaii to play some exhibition matches at Christmas time. Daniel couldn’t go. He had lost his passport. “Teammates still bug me about that one,” he says.
Looking back on his five years in university-in a foreign land, Eikeland Rod says he has grown up in every way. “I came here not knowing how Canada was, how the school worked here. I got so much more experience. Everything in my life has calmed down. I learned to relax and not be so nervous and intense all the time.”
The 6’5” native of Oz Norway arrived as a middle, but switched to the outside in his third year. “I like playing outside better. I had always been a passer—even as a middle—I wasn’t subbed out. Being outside hitter has allowed me to have more of a say on the court and be more involved. I also made the switch because if I did want to play professionally or on the national team, I am too small. Most middles are 6’8” to 7’2”.
As he looks forward: finding a job in Canada is a priority for Eikeland Rod. But what about volleyball? Would he consider a pro career? “I am struggling with a knee. I need to have it rest for a year. If I do find a job that I like I will pursue that.”
Being the lone fifth year player on this squad, Eikeland Rod has been the source for many questions from his younger teammates. What are his words of advice? “For volleyball, I told them to focus on the physical part so much in year one. It wasn’t until my third year that I really started to work out and it turned out well as I got stronger and had more of a reach. I told them to get started right away. When it comes to school, the first couple of years I didn’t know what to do. I took three or maybe four classes per semester. When I did find out what I liked (Business) I had to take five courses per semester. That was a lot all at once.”
Looking back at the players he has played with over his time with the WolfPack, Eikeland Rod says two players come to mind: Brad Gunter (Courtenay, BC) and Colin Carson (Prince George, BC). “Those guys have been the players that I have looked up to and had the most influence on me. Brad was not only a good player but also my best friend. I looked up to Colin for his personality and emotions that he showed on the court. He didn’t have to be a ‘big guy’ or ‘big person’ off the court. On it, he was so focused on what he wanted to do and what he wanted the team to do. He would get on you if something went on.”
As his Canada West career is winding down, Rod has taken the time to absorb the ‘little nuances’ which make being a university athlete so special. “I go to a gym and know this is the last time I will be here. It sinks in each game, every game. Here it is my senior’s weekend and my last home game. It starts to sink in.”
Eikeland Rod’s mom, aunt and grandmother have made the trip to Kamloops to watch him this weekend. “My mom has been here once. My grandma and aunt haven’t been here so it will be fun to show them around.”
He admits that having them in the stands, when he plays his last match will make it an emotional time. “ I don’t think my grandma will handle five sets, ‘he laughs. “ I know I will be emotional.”
SIDE OUTS: Eikeland Rod will be honored before the WolfPack’s match on Saturday. Pat Hennelly-the TRU coach—who is on sabbatical will make the presentation.
Hennelly states: “Dan has been a pleasure to coach over the past five years. Dan made the tough transition from middle to left side in his 4th year. We talked about the move after his third year and made a deal if Dan pushed himself in the summer and came back in better shape we would invest the time in the move. Dan returned in great shape and gained 7inches in vertical. Dan has always approached his time here at TRU with full intensity and he was a big part of our last trip to the Canada West Final Four and our first playoff home win versus Saskatchewan. We wish Dan all the best for the future on and off the court.
WolfPack interim head coach Mike Hawkins has this to say about Eikland Rod “) Daniel has been the ultimate utility knife and has excelled in whichever position Pat and myself have placed him. He came to TRU as a undersized but dynamic middle and was a force with his speed in angles. With his level of ball control, he was able to channel those skills into being an effective Outside Hitter. I have had the privilege to catch Danny at the beginning and the end of his career. He came in and was an outgoing and hard working athlete who got along great with the core group of guys we had here – the likes of Stu Richey, Brad Gunter, and Matt Krueger. Now on the tail end of his career, he has adopted more of a leadership role and looks to push guys in practices and matches with his competitive attitude and desire to see this program return to where it belongs. “
Eikeland Rod on the influence of both coaches: “First coming here, I thought Pat was a scary guy-I am not going to lie. That is a side of him that he shows only on the court. Off of it, he is just an amazing guy. So friendly and would do anything for you. Same with Mike. He was an assistant coach my first two years. He has not only been my coach but my friend too. I am looking forward to seeing him more once the season is over.”