Welcome Home

The first words spoken to us upon our arrival at our hotel in in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It`s not quite how I picture home, but I like it nonetheless. It implies that Mexico is a place to kick your feet up and relax, my kind of place. We don`t get mama's home cooking, but the hotel staff do try to make sure guests are always enjoying themselves. Even if that does mean we have to turn down several cervezas per meal to keep ourselves game ready, it's hard not to relax in this atmosphere

As soon as we leave the hotel, however, all hell breaks loose. This NORCECA is as disorganized as any before. A comedy of errors as I've come to expect on this tour, self-proclaimed the best tour in the world.
-The courts are still being fixed as we speak with gameplay starting less than 24 hours from now, The venue itself is still a long way from done, they say it will look great for the Pan Am Games in a few weeks, but that doesn't help us for this weekend.
-We're still trying to figure out the whole FIVB points situation, we hear something new about that every day.
-During our practice this morning at 11 we heard we needed to check in to the tournament by 1:30. So we get back to the hotel early and find out they've changed check in to 4, and not earlier.

Standard NORCECA.
As long as the nets go high enough by the time the games start, I'll be happy. Then after a hopefully strong result this weekend we can go back to Canada and really be welcomed home..... before having to come back a few weeks from now for the Pan American games.

Ben Jammin


Casey and Me

A week after the fact, I realized I still haven't told about my weekend tournament with living California legend Casey Jennings. A bit of background info on Casey for those who aren't familiar, he's a 6 time AVP tournament champion in his 12th year of competitive beach volleyball. Though his wife, Kerri Walsh, may have the more storied career, Casay himself is consistently on one of the top American teams since 2004, and is currently one of the most well known men's beach volleyball players in the world. One highlight I remember was back in high school, I think the summer of '05, when Casey and Matt Fuerbringer had to come all the way through the loser's bracket in order win the Hermosa Open, while I and a group of my peers were there at a sort of training camp. Needless to say, his never give up attitude made me a fan, and him a bit of an idol.

So when he gave me a call the Tuesday before the tournament and told me he needed a partner for the NVL Championships in Miami, he caught my interest right away. Then he stroked my ego a little and told me he only wanted to play with a blocker he felt he could win with, so if I turned him down he wasn't sure if he would even play. Now I'm not sure if someone as dedicated to the sport as Casey Jennings would have followed through on that if a relative newbie such as myself couldn't make it, but my tires had been pumped up enough that I couldn't say no. Even if it did mean cutting my down time short.

When I got to Miami, it poured rain. It was still warm, but the rain came down hard. I almost wish some of it had stayed for the weekend, but alas it was not to be. I personally went through a flat of Gatorade, and at least as many bottles of water over the course of the weekend, and I still felt dehydrated at the end of the weekend. But no matter how dead I felt, Casey had a knack for keeping me and himself fighting for every point and I found myself getting better no matter how drained the longer the matches went. Probably for a combination of the following reasons:
- Casey is one of my heroes, I didn't want to let him down
- The best players find a way to make both themselves and their teammates better
- His refusal to let hecklers get the best of him helped to relax me, take the pressure off.

Overall, I was upset we finished 7th. I thought we could just as easily been semi finalists. But it's not every day you get to play with one of your heroes, and overall we didn't play poorly, just let the heat take its toll in our eventual demise. So all I have left to say to Casey is thank you for continuing to be a mentor to me, whether you knew you were one or not.

An additional note. My new roommate, Breanne Duncan, insisted on making me a Twitter account, so I guess I have one now. I don't know much about it, but I'll give it a try. So feel free to follow my official Twitter feed: BenSaxton13

Ben Jammin


Thomas Quinet

About a year ago, I wrote about my little cousin and his battle with Cystic Fibrosis. On Sunday, September 4th the fight became too much. Unable to find a sufficient donor in time, Thomas Quinet passed in the Toronto Children's Hospital, with his family by his side.

Over his last couple years, I got to know Tom a little bit. Despite their circumstance, he, my aunt and my uncle all shared very optimistic outlooks, that have helped me to see past all my own little worries, which were always minute in comparison. Whenever I was able to make a visit, Tom was always eager to kick my ass at Madden, or MLB, or Wrestling, or Racing, or whatever Xbox game he was playing at the time. I may be an athlete in real life, but Tom could sure outplay me at sports games. He and his parents even managed to make it out to watch the 2010 National Championships (though I didn't do so well). And even though I hate to lose, I was glad to see that my inferiority gave him pleasure, because he deserved every opportunity to smile that he could get.

A few times during my visits I was able to accompany Thomas and my uncle Marc out for a walk. It wasn't too far at first, just to the end of the hall and back at first, but the last time I went we made it a couple blocks. Those walks were what really cemented Tom's spirit in my mind. He fought hard for every extra step, just as he fought hard for every breath during his lifetime and his parents were proud and supportive of every moment.

A few weeks ago, however, things took a turn in the wrong direction. A donor had yet to be found and breathing was becoming too much of a struggle, and Thomas was forced into intensive care to be attached to an artificial lung machine. My aunt and uncle stayed by his side almost the entire time, and pushed for donors through media outlets, while all of us, his family and friends, prayed for a positive match to be found. Marc and Suzanne managed to make it out to Ashbridges Bay to watch Christian and I win the 2011 National Championship title. I was overjoyed that I was able to give them a positive experience during their time of hardship and some good news to relay to Tom in his hospital bed. But without a match, it was only a matter of time, and at 14 years of age, Thomas finally gave everything he had.

His fight was inspirational, as is the fight of every man woman and child in need of our help. All it takes is one person to donate to save another persons life. Let Tom's battle be an inspiration to all to support finding more donors. Even if his body can no longer be saved, his memory can be preserved by helping to save others. From what I knew of him and my aunt and uncle, I know they all would want that.

Rest in Peace
Thomas Paul Quinet

Ben Jammin



It seems like the National Championships came early this year. Even though we've been competing since April, the summer felt like it has just blown by, and now here we are getting into the Fall. For those of you who followed the results on here, or Facebook, or any other source (not the VC website, which still has yet to post Nationals results) you know that Christian and I managed to end of the Summer in the best way possible. On Top.

In front of one of the biggest crowds I've seen at this event we played a really strong semi against two ex-National Champions (Rich Van Huizen and Chaim Schalk) and in the final we battled hard to beat the red hot Maverick Hatch and Sam Schachter, who had the top Canadian results in every event held in Canada this Summer up until that point. We went in to the tournament as the number 1 seed, but between fellow countrymen, the seeding doesn't always mean much, especially considering how high a level all teams are playing at these days. In the end, the top 4 seeds did make it to the semi final, but none of us made it in straight sets. Considering most of the teams there consisted of guys around my age, or even younger, I'm expecting Nationals to get only stronger, which is great news for the development of all of us in the future.

Am I happy? Absolutely. I'll need to win 10 more times before I'm through to surpass Mark Heese's record of ten total, and I hope every one tastes as sweet as this one. Sure we whine and complain about the steep entry fee, and smaller than normal prize money, but we are prideful creatures, and when it comes down to it, we all want to win this tournament just as badly as any other. This year, the crown is ours.

Congratulations to Kacie MacTavish and Julie Rodrigue who won the women's side, and thanks to everyone who posted on our facebook group and "liked" our comments. And thanks especially to sponsors, friends, and family who came out to watch in person, because we love to show off what we're capable of in front of you, and we love to make you proud.

Ben Jammin