When Tayler Blatchford’s family moved to Killarney three years ago, she decided to try volleyball and quickly realized she wasn’t close to the skill level of her peers.
She had never tried an overhand serve before and preferred to practise and observe matches instead of going on the court. However, her early coaches put her on the floor regardless, she started dedicating herself to the game and now is showing her potential.
The 15-year-old middle was named a tournament all-star at the provincial A/AA junior varsity high school championship, which her Killarney Raiders won, and again at the provincial AA varsity girls’ high school championship. She’s also being recruited by a couple universities and has become a case study in why people shouldn’t give up on something they love.
"When I first started volleyball I was horrible, like actually horrible," said the Grade 10 student, whose family moved from Chilliwack, B.C., in her Grade 8 year. "I just stayed at it because why not get better at it. When I came here, all these girls were super good. Like an overhand serve, what is this? I couldn’t even get it over the net.
"People used to make fun of me, like ‘Isn’t she horrible?’, but if you stick with it you can become better and then you’re the good person on the team."
Part of Blatchford’s improvement is due to her raw athletic ability. The 5-foot-11 multi-sport athlete is a natural jumper — Blatchford finished in a tie for third at high school junior varsity provincials with a high jump of 1.45 metres — and can almost touch 10 feet, which gives her a huge advantage in the high school and 16-and-under club volleyball levels.
She has also worked hard to learn the game and isn’t afraid to train. She lifts weights at least three days a week and is in the gym five days a week during the summer.
As her play on the court improved, her confidence grew and now she’s a player that 16U Cats Gold coach Dean Kachur is very high on.
"She’s huge for us," he said. "When she plays well for us, she’s one of the best players in the province in the middle. When she’s on her game, her blocking and hitting in the front row are pretty unstoppable."
Blatchford’s improvement has changed her view on life as well.
"I always look at the potential in people now because I came from nothing," she said. "I was a nobody on the team. When I see other people, I think you can be something. Anyone can be anything. It’s just how it is, I guess."
On Sunday, Blatchford helped Cats Gold win a silver medal at 16U girls’ club provincials in Brandon and they will be one of 104 teams competing at the western Canadian championships in Calgary from May 17-19, which she’s looking forward to. However, Blatchford isn’t planning to relax before any event and rest on her laurels. She wants to help the Raiders compete for two more varsity volleyball titles before she graduates and has set a goal to play in the CIS after she graduates.
"I hope to play university volleyball. CIS would be the coolest thing ever," she said. "That would be the biggest dream ever. It would be awesome.
"I’m kind of already looking (at universities) at this stage. I’ve been talking to a few people, but not very much. They email me sometimes and say they’d like me to play for them, so that’s kind of cool. That’s really exciting."