Former Bobcats all-star Jon Sloane was in Quebec City to watch his former Brandon University teammates at the CIS national championship. (CHRIS JASTER/BRANDON SUN)
QUEBEC CITY — Jon Sloane may no longer be a member of the Brandon University Bobcats, but volleyball is still a big part of his life.
After exhausting his university eligibility at the conclusion of the 2011-12 Canada West season, the 24-year-old Winchester, Ont., native joined the national volleyball training centre development program in Gatineau, Que. He’s been working with national coaches on a daily basis — and also taking a few correspondence classes to finish his business administration degree from BU — with the goal of making the national men’s team this summer.
"It’s all about for me to crack the (national) squad this summer," he said. "I’d like to get into the next cycle for the Olympics coming up and prepare myself to get a contract next season. … The Olympics is a dream. It’s something I’d really like to do. My goal for right now is to get myself to play professionally next season, but to play some good years, get some travelling. Really taking in all the experiences I can."
Although he’s been in Gatineau less than a year, Sloane has found a massive improvement in his game.
The 6-foot-9, 205-pound middle has worked hard on reading and reacting to opposing teams and on his blocking ability, which he believed was his biggest weakness during his three seasons with the Bobcats. Now he feels like he can do anything a coach would ask of a middle.
"Most definitely my top attribute that we’ve improved has been my blocking," said Sloane, who practises for up to four hours per day, plus more time to lift weights. "For years, I’ve just put it on the backburner because it wasn’t really working for me.
"As soon as we got to the centre, we broke it down. They really changed everything, even my stance off the hop. And my reading has improved leaps and bounds and now I’m really part of the game. I’m falling into the role of middle blocker now."
One of the perks of being part of the national training program is that the participants were asked if they would like to do some scorekeeping at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s volleyball championship, which was held at Laval University from Friday through Sunday when the Bobcats wrapped up nationals by winning a bronze medal. Sloane jumped at the chance since the Bobcats were in the event, and it gave him a chance to visit with friends and see this year’s group of fifth-year players — setter Garrett Popplestone and libero-turned-left-side Scott Neufeld — on the court one last time.
He took full advantage of that opportunity, even if it pained him to watch the Bobcats play without him.
"This may be one of the last chances I get to see them at nationals as guys I once played with," he said. "I’m glad to be here and I’m glad to support them. … It kills me every second (that I’m not on the court with them), but I’m glad to see them here. I’m glad to see them playing well."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 5, 2013