Family has always meant the world to Dan Jansen vanDoorn.
Playing professional volleyball in Europe and spending time with the Canadian national team can be taxing. But when times get difficult or he gets homesick (he has spent the past four Christmases away) the 26-year-old uses his family as motivation.
“My family are my best fans, they are incredible,” he said.
What that means is when he takes the court, he makes sure to go give it his all.
“I can’t half-ass it. I could be here with my family, the people I love the most, so don’t waste my time over there. I need to really give it.”
And his family has faith in his skills as well.
Last year —before Canada had even qualified for men’s volleyball for the Rio Olympic Games — his eldest brother, Josh, booked a ticket to Brazil. And after Canada finally qualified for the Games back in early June — they missed a glorious opportunity in January when they were upset by Cuba at a match in Edmonton — his parents, Marvin and Carolyn, also booked their tickets for Rio.
They did so without knowing if their son would even be chosen to represent Canada.
“They were watching (prices) go up $200 a day,” Jansen vanDoorn said.
The family’s faith was rewarded on Friday (July 22), when Jansen vanDoorn was one of a dozen athletes nominated for the Rio Games by the Canadian Olympic Committee and Volleyball Canada.
He’d learned he had made the final team a few weeks earlier.
Jansen vanDoorn and the rest of the national team were in Portugal, where the team was playing in the FIVB World League .
The players were called up to a hotel room by the coaches in numerical order and were told whether or not they had made the final squad.
Jansen vanDoorn came back to the hotel lobby and told the next player to go up.
“I just sat there and processed everything; It was quite something. A powerful feeling,” he said.
After a few minutes of quiet reflection, he sent a group message to his family back in Langley.
“Making this team is a dream come true,” he said.
Jansen vanDoorn remembers watching the Olympics when he was younger and attending the 2010 Games in Vancouver, soaking up the atmosphere and the energy.
“I always just thought the Olympics were the pinnacle of sports,” he said. “The dream would have been to have gone as a supporter or something, but going as an athlete just feels surreal.”
Jansen vanDoorn first held serious Olympic aspirations a few years ago.
He said he was a decent player in high school, a tall, lanky, uncoordinated kid.
But his high school coaches at Langley Christian — Jesse Zuidhof and Joel Jansen — encouraged him to stick with it.
The coaches told him he had potential, but Jansen vanDoorn admits he doesn’t know if he completely believed them.
Having two older sisters with the national team program — Dayna with the indoor team and Kara with the beach program — made him think that perhaps the game was in his blood.
Josh also excelled in the sport and younger brother Micah played for Trinity Western as well, finishing in 2015.
Jansen vanDoorn joined the Trinity Western program after graduating from Langley Christian.
After two largely unspectacular seasons personally — the team did win the 2011 CIS national championship — he made a change the summer before this third year.
“I realized I was living life in third gear,” he said.
He began taking his workouts and diet seriously, dropping 25 pounds while adding muscle.
“A switch went off for me,” he said.
Jansen vanDoorn not only helped Trinity Western capture the CIS title 2012 — playing a bigger role that second year — but he also made the national team.
He has now been with the national team program for four years, while also playing professionally since graduating in 2013.
“It is obviously such an honour (to play for your country) but it comes with a lot of responsibility, too,” he said. “You are representing a country of 35 million and going to battle against these other countries in the name of Canada. It is quite something.”
Whenever he hears the national anthem, Jansen vanDoorn thinks about who he is representing.
“It gives me goose bumps every time.”
Jansen vanDoorn is one of six athletes from Trinity Western University nominated for the Canadian Olympic team.
Joining him on the men’s volleyball team are Rudy Verhoeff and Steve Marshall.
Verhoeff is originally from Calgary but now lives in Langley in the off-season and Marshall is from Abbotsford.
Another former TWU volleyball player, Chaim Schalk will represent Canada on the beach volleyball courts. Schalk is from Red Deer.
And in field hockey, Adam Froese will play for Canada. Froese, from Abbotsford, did not play university sports at Trinity Western, but did graduate from the Langley university.
And finally, Alison Jackson, who now lives in Abbotsford, was named an alternate to the Canadian cycling team. Jackson ran cross-country and track and field for the Spartans.
As for the success of the men’s volleyball program, TWU head coach Ben Josephson said it is pretty neat to be a part of the process of seeing these players on their journeys to success.
“It is cool to be a part of helping Canada at the Olympics, however small our role was, it is just cool to be part of that process,” Josephson said.
“We knew that group was special at the time and now as they move forward, they’ve proven how special it really was.”
Photo courtesy Scott STEWART/TWU Athletics