Jordan Foot recalls the first Prince George Youth Volleyball Club camp he participated in.
The camp, a joint partnership with PGYVC and Thompson Rivers University men's volleyball squad, was held years ago at the Civic Centre when Foot was a youngster.
"I was just so awful," he said Tuesday morning during a break in camp action at CNC's gym. "I was just there having fun."
But for whatever reason, Foot wasn't discouraged. He improved his game every year. He grew to appreciate and excel in the game, and even dealt with a five-inch growth spurt during high school. He made D.P. Todd's senior boys squad as a Grade 10 player.
Fast forward to today and Foot, now six-foot-six and 20 years-old, is entering his third season as a middle blocker with TRU based in Kamloops.
"I've had an absolute blast," he said of his career so far. "I've been on Team B.C. and seen exponential growth."
And he returns home to Prince George every summer to help coach the week-long volleyball camp which is now run at two sites - CNC and Duchess Park - for boys and girls in Grades 5 to 12.
"It's so rewarding to see the kids come in in Grade 8 and come back (year after year)," he said. "They're light years ahead (of where they were)."
The camp, which concludes Friday, officially wraps up the summer and the off-season for Foot and the WolfPack.
The WolfPack finished the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Canada West regular season with a 20-5 record, but bowed out of the Canada West playoffs with a 3-0 loss to Trinity Western in the quarterfinals.
Foot just didn't rest on his laurels during the summer. He wound up attending a training camp in South Korea, an offer that came about during the Canada West playoffs.
During the bus ride to Langley, WolfPack head coach Pat Hennelly asked Foot if he'd be interested in going overseas to train with Sung Kyun Kwan University in Seoul, South Korea.
Foot, of course, said yes and became one of five TRU players in team history to attend the school.
"Everything down there is so different, from the training, the culture to the eating. It's very intense," said Foot, who's earning his bachelor of business administration degree with a major in marketing. "Their training methods are different. In North America, it's two hours where you're constantly doing something. At SKK, it was a three-hour practice focusing on endurance. It was almost like sprints. You'd be in a drill, then rest/water for about 10 minutes. The rest of the team would do the drill and you'd be back at it again."
Henelly put a great deal of thought into asking Foot if he'd be interested in the experience.
"A combination of factors went into selecting Jordan," said Hennelly. "We have sent libero's (Kyle Donen, Matt Krueger, a setter (Tim Flannigan from Prince George) and an outside hitter (Andy Haley). I have been waiting for the right middle to send and Dr. Han-Joo Eom (director of athletics and former head coach of SKK and ex WolfPack assistant coach) was one of the best middles in the world in the 1980s. I knew that Jordan would learn a lot."
Foot returned to Prince George in May and went to the gym five days a week with his buddies, worked a summer job in construction and helped landscape his family's cabin.
Foot reached out to Krueger before he left for South Korea on July 28 to know what to expect.
"I wanted to be ready to work hard," he said. "The last thing I wanted to do was show up unprepared and tarnish the reputation of TRU."
And when he left SKK on Aug. 10, he'd seen a marked improvement in his game.
"My attacking speed and form and my blocking is so much better now," said Foot, who'll attempt to earn a starting role with the WolfPack this fall. "And my jumping. I get a lot more penetration over the net now."
Prior to going overseas, Foot also tried out for the junior national team in Gatineau, Que. in July, but didn't make the squad.
"It was very disappointing things didn't go the way I would've liked," he said. "What Pat told me is if I didn't make the junior national team, I'd go to Korea. I was happy to have that experience, given that a select amount of people are selected by the coaches."
He grateful for Hennelly for allowing him to have the opportunity in Korea, SKK head coach Shin Sun-ho and all the players on the SKK team for immersing him into their culture and team and for Dr. Eom for accepting him into Seoul.
Now, as the WolfPack's new season dawns, Foot hopes to build on not only his experience in South Korea, but on his sophomore season where he was healthy for the entire season, saw more playing time and got to start in more games.
"I'm starting to mature into my role and I'm adjusting very well," he said. "I'm now focused on my health, volleyball and school. This season I'm looking forward to being a leader and being a mentor to the new recruits coming in who are all athletic and strong. With our fifth years (Graham Stoliker, Brad Gunter and Prince George's Nic Balasz) we have a lot of experience on the team. This year we have a really good chance of going pretty far."
Foot will return to Kamloops on Saturday and prepare for pre-season fitness testing. The WolfPack's regular season begins Oct. 16 on the road in Brandon.