The Evolution of Ben Jammin - Part II

As promised, some pictures of el Gordo, courtesy of my mom. I’m not sure if I’ve gained a pound since then. Now let’s get on with the story.

We rejoin our hero on the brink of adolescence. At 10 years old, I began to play volleyball. It was inevitable. My parents are both ex Indoor National Team members, who own and operate the Volleydome in Calgary, a facility dedicated to the sport. I was bred to play and for the last decade I haven’t stopped. I played indoor over the fall, winter and early spring, and beach filled in the remainder. By the time I hit 17, beach was already my favourite of the two.

High School had its ups and downs. I kept my head over water in great thanks to varsity athletics. My grades were never in any danger. It was my sanity that the sports kept in check. I often wish I could still play them all. Basketball in particular brings back some very fond, very competitive memories. High school basketball fell in line with club volleyball, which meant I missed a fair number of bball practices. Thankfully my coached valued my athleticism, sometimes calling on me to play as much as 38 out of 40 minutes per game. But as much as I miss that game, I don’t regret forgoing it for this game. Except maybe during March Madness, because I would have loved to have a shot at that.

By the end of high school I had already had my first few tastes of international play. In the summers of 2005 and 2006, then partner Will Pasieka and I played first in St. Quay Portrieux, France, then Bermuda at the U19 Beach Volleyball World Championships. We earned little success, neither year making the playoffs, finishing in 19th place both year. I also got a taste of the indoor junior NORCECA Championship game. I tried out, and made the squad as a leftside, but when an unfortunate illness came over libero Steve Kung, I was put to the task of replacing him until he recovered. It was the first and only time I ever played libero. We won the bronze, so I cant have been all that bad.

Then came the University of Alberta. Its a whole other lifestyle. I was immediately living on my own, having to manage my own meals, course schedule with practice and game times, roommates, free time, etc. I recommend that everyone experience it at some point if you haven’t already. To this day I fall back on KD for lunches, with a few hot dogs or a can of tuna added, dinners. Outside of the kitchen, as a Golden Bear, I had an advantage. Being on the team gave an immediate close circle of friends. Most of whom had already been living the life for a few years, and didn’t hesitate to show us the ropes for balancing the stresses of school and university volleyball. Even if “the ropes” constituted a lot of partying whenever possible, I still consider it an advantage. Since it led to 2 National Golds and one Silver, I can't really complain (not that I intended to).

Just before my 18th birthday, I was invited to the National Beach Volleyball ID Camp. The thing I remember most is not the camp itself, but the heated PVB forum debate over whether or not I deserved to be there. I wish I could track down the thread to let everyone read for themselves the controversy that one little name caused. But whether I deserved to be at the tryout or not, I am where I am, and I no longer hear of anyone saying I'm out of my league.

And the rest is history. I know this half of the story was a lot more volleyball related, but once I started playing, I didn't stop. It consumed my life then, and continues to do so now. So what makes me who I am? You've got the rundown now, you tell me.


Ben Jammin


The Evolution of Ben Jammin - Part I

What makes me who I am? Why do I do what I do?
Instead of just throwing out my own theory, I'm just going to give a quick rundown of my life, (the memorable parts anyhow) and you can all feel free to analyze me how you will.

Our story starts in the year 1988. Ancient history, I know, but bear with me. It was a lovely day in late November (Could have been, I don't actually remember all the details of my birth strangely enough), when young Ben Jammin was born. All 11.5 pounds of him. That is correct, back in the days preceding my memories, I was fat. A couple months later, my mom, sister and I followed my dad to Spain while he played professional indoor volleyball in Barcelona. The spanish called me "el Gordo", which in English stands for "Fatso".

As a baby, I'm not really sure whether this was before or after Spain, my parents bought a dog. A Black Labrador-German Sheppard cross which they named Dudie. She and I grew up together. My parents trained her, I played with her. She could sit, shake a paw, and stayed away from traffic, and that was just perfect for us, and I think perfect for her. Dudie and I shared birthdays, and she was a fixture in our lives until she died of old age when I was 16. Over 100 in dog years.

My elementary school years were pretty standard. All I remember is recess, as any young kid should. That and class plays. I used to be a crier, and I really remember crying about not being able to remember my lines as Papa bear in our 2nd grade performance of Goldilocks. I was so frustrated and teary eyed, my mom had to calm me down by bribing me with a skateboard if I could memorize it all. I had a new found determination, and I got that skateboard. A lot of good that was on our gravel driveway. To this day, I can barely even ride a longboard. But I sure made a darn good Papa Bear.

Middle school brought about the mingling of the french fries and the english muffins (French and English immersion students for those of you who don't speak kid). Again, most of us majored in recess. And all the boys played football. Tackle football if the teachers weren't looking. My nickname was "Hardcore Ben", because I refused to be tackled. Keep running at all costs is all I would think about.

It looks like there's a little more to write about than I thought, so I am now officially making this blog a two part series. Look for Part II on Thursday. I'll try to get a few more old pictures from my parents before then too, since I don't have many for this entry and I know how much everyone wants to see "el Gordo".

To be continued....

Ben Jammin


All Request Saturday #3

I won't waste any time this week. Let's get right to some questions, shall we?

So, in all honesty, does being a sports star get you women? - Anonymous

Those who know me, are aware of my lack of detail about my love life. So to answer your question (as evasively as possible of course):
If I ever become a sports star, I'll let you know. For now I'm just an athlete, to be a star you've got to have recognition. And I wouldn't really consider a weekly blog the source of stardom. Maybe the next time I have a chat with Dalhauser and Rogers I'll ask them about it.

As I write this, 4 Brazilian teams are the last undefeated teams in the tournament. Obviously the Brazilians are ahead at the start of the season after their pre FIVB tournament schedule. Next year will you go to Brazil in March or can the NORCECA tournaments prepare you just as well? - Don Saxton

I've been asking this same question to myself. As of right this moment, it's a little too early to tell. There are several options for next preseason. Brazil, with their strong National tour, and constant good weather is obviously in the running. California, with it's constant sunshine, strong teams to compete against, and feel-at-home atmosphere is also a strong candidate. There is also the option of remaining in Toronto for another winter, to stay near the full time coaching and all the strength & conditioning staff and facilities available to us here. But like I said, that won't be decided until after this season is coming to a close. We need to focus on catching the Brazilians on tour right now, we'll save the rest for next preseason.

Are you a natural flier? What are the 3 main things you do to make yourself as comfortable and rested as possible on international flights? -Jay Nuttall

At 2 meters tall, the answer is simple. No, I am not a natural flier. It's hard to be, when you don't even fit in the seats. And I haven't yet perfected the Rich Van Huizen method of guaranteeing himself a good seat, so sometimes I just have to settle for the window, the aisle, or even the dreaded middle seat. The 3 things aren't things I do every time I fly, but when I think about them, they usually help an awful lot.

1 - Ask for the emergency exit row
This is a must. Exit rows provide that extra foot of leg room, and I will take as much space as I can possibly get. If they're already taken, or cost extra I'll then ask for a window seat. I prefer window to aisle. With the wall of the plane there, I'm guaranteed a place to rest my head, just in case the head rest don't quite make it.

2 - Make friends with the flight attendants
By making a point of laughing with the flight attendants about how I don't fit through the door, or under the emergency exit signs, or just don't fit in the seats in general, I single myself out. They notice the big guy with the big smile and can't help but take notice. Once I've caught their eye, I'm way more likely to get an extra snack, or meal, or free headset. Anything they can do to make my flight enjoyable. As long as the flight attendants know I exist, they're bound to be generous (or pity me, either works).

3 - Try to get an empty row
At the very least, an empty seat next to me. That way there's not need to sit at right angles for the entire flight. Sure it might be good for my posture, but it's only comfortable for so long. Plus, there's nothing worse than having to sit crammed next to a stranger. Always afraid to use the armrest, because they might want to. Never wanting to bother them if I have a window seat and have to pee. Dreading them having to pee if I have the aisle.

That's it for the questions this week. But I'd like to address a comment that I've received from a few people since I began this blog. It might be because it's true, but for all I know people are just saying things to make me happy. For now I'll feign ignorance and thank everyone for complimenting my on my writing style.
I can't take all the credit though. Some recognition needs to go to books. I love to read. Any genre works, I usually choose reading material by recommendation from friends and family. So to respond to the praise, whether you meant it or not, I'm going to start Benny's Book Club. Basically, I'll post whatever I'm reading, why I'm reading it, what I just finished reading, and what I thought about it. You'll be able to find it in a little sidebar to the right. I'm doing this both to recommend books to everyone who's interested, and so that people will approach me with new reading material to keep myself entertained during my rare moments of non volleyball.
Hopefully I'll have Benny's Book Club up and running by tomorrow. I may get made fun of for it, but I love to read, and if this gets me a few more books this summer, then make fun all you like.


Ben Jammin


Moving On

Qualifiers can be frustrating. No one wants to travel halfway around the world just to play one match. When you win, and make it into the main draw, it's all worth it. But when you don't, it's hard to stay positive. I sit there sulking over what I should have done better. If I had just done this, or done that, then it might have been a happy ending.

But hindsight is always 20/20 vision. Getting pissed off won't make life any easier. Nobody wins everything. The ability to learn from and bounce back from a loss is part of the reason the best teams are so revered. If anything, the anger and frustration from a first round loss should only be used as fuel for the next match. And I fully intend to use it as such.

My creative juices aren't really flowing today, so I suppose I'll finish off with a quick recap of our match yesterday. The Venezuelans consist of two high flyers, with solid ball control. The match started out all right, we went point for point, and led 11-10 at the first technical. The second half of the set saw them earn a few points, and us miss a lot of serves. The second set started similarly, with us going up 11-10 at the first technical. They started to serve tough, tagging lines, and we fell behind quickly. We clawed our way back, but it wasn't enough. They went on to win their next game handily as well, and are now in the main draw of the tournament.

It could just have easily been us if this or that had happened. But it's no use to cry about it now. We'll be back bigger and better for the next tournament. And we'll only get stronger in the tournaments to come.



It's easy to get excited. In most cases, all it takes is one little thing to set the mood in motion. An action, an event, heck, even a pretty girl walking by. Anything that gets your heart racing and your blood pumping. No, I'm not about to write about all the lovely Brazilian ladies (Though there have been one or two who merit a second glance). It's time to talk tournament. The qualifier for the Brasilia Open is only a couple days away and, as with any tournament, emotions are starting to set in.


Hurry up and start already. Let's get things going, I've been training all winter, it's time to play! What is taking these last few days so long?!


I hope we get a good draw. Did we prepare enough? Did I? How well will our opponents play? I hope the food here is good and won't make me sick. Did I set my alarm right?


We can beat anybody out here. We've done it all week at practice. It's time to beat down on some chumps. Bring me my next victim.


We're ready. This is what we're here for, time to relax and let things happen. One match, one set, one point at a time. Let's do what we came here to do.


Is that Dalhauser? Rogers? Ricardo? etc. They're pretty good. I wonder if I'll get to play them. That would be sweet to tell all my friends.


Time to play. Awesome, these tournaments is the reason I do what I do. Let's have some fun. I love this game.

Which, when it all gets thrown together in my mind, yields:


Did I prepare enough? Absolutely! I just want to play! I hope we get to play Phil and Todd, so we can show them what we're made of. But until then, we just gotta take it one play at a time. As long as we stay healthy, this should be a solid tournament. Time to get the ball rolling, time to do some serious damage!
I love this game.


In Addition

I know it's not part of the regular weekly rotation, but I received a question yesterday afternoon and after looking it over, realized it wouldn't really make sense to provide the answer next Saturday since by then our tournament in Brasilia will be done. So I decided I would write a quick response today as an addition to yesterday's All Request Saturday. You wouldn't want me to cut into the really riveting Monday topic tomorrow after all, now would you?

Do you think you're ready? and what are you doing to prepare for international events?
– Derrick Kolke

I'll start by explaining how we've prepared, because that more or less leads into the answer to if we're ready.

The preparation for this season began when the last season ended. About a week after getting back to Canada from Sanya, China (the location of our last event of the previous season), I was back in the sand. All winter long I've been doing beach training at Beach Blast in Toronto with coaches Lennard Krapp and Angie Shen, and physical training with CSCO Director for Sport Lab and Physical Preperation, Chris Dalcin. Jessi's been training with us on the sand, but has his own hired physical trainer. The NORCECA's also served to prepare us for competition, and though we aren't happy with 2nd place, it just serves to motivate us further.

As for preparing for Brasilia specifically, we've spent the last week in Joao Pessoa with a fairly elite training group of a few of the top Brasilian (also top World Tour) players. This way we get a feel for the climate, and for the skill level with which we will need to compete.

Now, do I think I'm ready? Personally, I seldom think I'm ready. I am a bit of a perfectionist when I train, and there's always something that can be improved in almost every set of skills.

Do I think Jessi and I have the capability to tear it up at the coming World tour event in Brasilia?

Is there still a lot of work that needs to be done?


All Request Saturday # 2

Well it seems I'm a little bit more popular this week. Either that means more people are following along, or more people are giving in to me begging them to "please, read my blog!" Either way, muito obrigado (thanks a lot in portuguese). So I'll start things off in response to a comment from my little bro.

It could use a bit more comedic flavour. -Dustin Saxton

Well Dustin, to put it as maturely as I possibly can:
-I'll be funny when I wanna be funny, so there.
or maybe
-Your face is pretty funny looking, so I posted that.
Either response should adhere to Dustin's comment to his satisfaction. I hope nobody is turned off by the little bits of family teasing I post up here, and Dust, I hope you feel the brotherly love bud.

Now lets get to a few serious questions. Here's the first one I received:

How does knowing that you're representing Canada (i.e., both as an official Canadian player and as a reflection of what Canada and Canadians are to the spectators and officials at the event) when you play internationally affect how you prepare during your pre-match training and how you play your matches while on court? -Jay Nuttall

During the majority of beach volleyball tournaments, there are so many games over the course of a few days that it's hard to even think that I'm representing Canada. Every game against every opponent needs the same amount of focus as the last, or the next. The amount of preparation and motivation should be the same for every event. When we play, it's almost better not to act like what people would expect of Canadians. It doesn't always help to be the "polite pushover" that a Canadian is supposed to be. Sometimes we need to play with the "win at all costs" American attitude, or the all out "heart on the sleeve" emotional Brazilian style.
In short, I love being Canadian, and I'm proud to be able to represent Canada at every opportunity, but I don't really think it affects how I play or train for a match. It just gives me a little more to brag about afterwards.

The next question is a typical mom thing to ask:

What are you eating down there? Are you choosing from lots of options or take whatever looks good? Cheap to buy food? Mylene Saxton

Doing good, Mom.

I'd probably get an earful if that's all I answered with. While on the road, it's not always easy to get to a grocery store and pick up all the healthiest options. Fortunately for Jessi and I, we live very close to a restaurant that serves all you can eat lunch buffets with a really good variety. For breakfasts we've been having granola mixed with frozen blended acai berry, a very healthy fruit which I find pretty tasty, though it would be nice to have a little variety now and again. Dinner often consists of finding a restaurant thats affordable and has a decent menu. Along the beach in Joao Pessoa, finding healthy inexpensive food isn't overly difficult, just go to the nearest coconut stand. But once we get to the European countries, it can put a real dent in the wallet.

And now onto the last question:

Of all the places you have visited/trained in/competed at thus far, which has been your favourite and why? -Kristy Giacobbo

I know it may not seem very far and exotic. But my favorite places are the beaches of Southern California. First of all, it has nice weather all year round, who wouldn't like that? Next, it embodies the beach volleyball lifestyle, so much so, that every time I'm there, I never want to leave. Finally, the people speak English. No offense is intended to any other language, but I just feel a lot more at home when I understand what the people around me are saying. Though I must say, after going to the Cayman Islands a coupe weeks ago, Cali is still my favorite, but not by as much.

Last week I was worried I needed to stretch out my answer, this week I might have written too much. I might have to put a limit on how many questions I can answer per week. Please, keep sending them in though, I'll respond on a first come first served basis. If you don't see an answer right away, expect it the next Saturday. I will try to get to everybody in time (as long as it's PG rated of course).

Ben Jammin