A Little Help Along the Way

The last time I blogged was way back just before our Olympic Trials match. Needless to say, that loss was tough to swallow, for all four players who missed it by that much. The next few weeks in Europe were very emotional as Heather Bansley, Liz Maloney, Christian and I all began to move forward in our own way. The results were alright, we actually got some big wins under our belt, especially in the Main Draw of Berlin. But once we got back, with the Olympics looming, I decided I needed a bit of a break from Beach. Not for long, but a few weeks out in BC to clear my head and renew my drive.

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have decided to take time off so close to our National Championships, but under the same circumstances, I would do it again. The trip gave me a chance to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones, and ultimately helped me to get me back into the right frame of mind. The support of friends and family was the most powerful motivator, to stop thinking of the Trials as a failure, but rather the beginning of a new stage in my Beach career. It's a result that will live with me forever but will never be repeated if I have anything to say about it.

So who do I have to thank?
Over my two reflective weeks in BC, I lived with three different families, and had three very different experiences with each of them. All extremely positive, and all filled with support and love to strengthen my resolve.

The Garskas
My trip started in Kelowna, where I had planned to play in the Grass Triples tournament, a small part of the whole Center of Gravity festival held there every August long weekend. I had no place to stay, and was relying on my very good friend Justin Merta to hook me up. He pulled through, as he so often does, and managed to hook us both up, as well as another good friend Kurt Kleinfeldt (both from the Bears).

We were hosted by the Garskas. Maybe I shouldn't be advertising this on here because now all their friends will want to go, but their summer home on the lake is amazing. I don't often get to spend days on the water, but the days I spent out there with Kurt, Justin, Missy Garska, Kaylan Barnes, and Justin Duff were some of the most enjoyable I think I've ever had outside of big vball events. Whether cliff jumping, wake surfing, exploring waterfalls, getting copious amounts of food forced upon us or just floating on the water, it was the perfect way to shed the bitterness of not qualifying, and just think happy thoughts.

Plus while I was there I got to see another friend Rosie MacLennan take home Canada's only gold at the games (More commonly known for her appearance in "Cook Fight!"). And I can't let her be the only one to get a medal, so it looks like now I have to get one in Rio. Right?

The Mertas
Following August Long, Justin and I took off so I could get lost in the woods, also known as Quesnel (pronounced Quinnel), for a week. It was a chance to be away from everything for a while. I was tuned back in to London, though, no longer dwelling on the fact that I wasn't there. Moreso getting inspired by victories and defeats at the World's Main Event.

It was just me, my thoughts, and the Mertas, another of the nicest families on earth. It seems every family I stay with is among that category (Though I suppose they'd have to be willing to put up with me for days on end). I consider Justin to be like a brother to me, and his whole family seems to be like an extension of my own. While in Quesnel, I went camping, played another triples tourney, and ate several home-cooked meals straight from their garden. All served to help remember that I don't play just for me, I play for all my supporters even the far reaches of Quesnel. Especially those who would take me into their home and treat me as family at a moments notice. Now I wish I had thought to take pictures while I was out there, but it only dawned on me just as I was leaving the city for Vancouver, so I only managed to get one with Justin's mom, Kathy. I hope I get a chance to come back some day.

The Sereses
One week prior to Nationals, I got into Vancouver and stayed with the Seres family. Who have hosted me on a few occasions now, though I can't fathom why. I eat all their food, sit around the house, and I'm sure I smell like any athlete. Yet they let me stay with them time and time again, and keep me company to boot. I spent the week getting back into volleyball mode so I didn't get to spend as much time with the family, but parents Debbie + Alex, and daughters Aimie + Kylah, seem to very much support my little habit, and always have plenty to ask me about it every time I come back. They're right up there with the Garskas and Mertas among the worlds nicest people.

During this particular trip to the west coast my parents actually managed to take them out for dinner, to thank them for all the time's the put me up. I also got to partake in the thank you dinner, so there were smiles all around. I should have gotten them all dinner, for all they've done for me, but I'll have to wait until the prize money starts rolling in over the next few years (fingers crossed).

As for Nationals, Christian and I finished 3rd. We played relatively well over the whole weekend. Our play was consistent from game to game, but we just couldn't pull out the plays we needed to in our semi final against Hatch/Schachter, and they were clearly motivated to beat us after we won our meeting last year. But that loss is just more fuel to my relit fire, I'm expecting big things to come over the next few seasons.

All in all, my mind needed the refresher. Now, thanks to all the families who billeted me during my time in BC, I'm refocused and re-motivated. You guys played a big part in helping me get back on my feet, so thank you. I hope to do you proud over the years to come.

Ben Jammin

P.S. I took a few of the pictures from facebook, I hope you don't mind :)