Gambo native and former MUN volleyball all-star training for pro career, possible national team spot
© — Telegram file photo
Former Memorial University Sea-Hawks women's volleyball star Sasha Wilkins is training at Volleyball Canada's Full-Time Training Centre in Winnipeg in hopes of pursuing a pro career next year. She also hopes to one day crack the national team roster.
Sasha Wilkins wants to play professional volleyball overseas next year, and she's probably in the right place at the right time to set up that possibility.
The former Memorial Sea-Hawks varsity star is currently at Team Canada's Full-Time Training Centre (FTC) at the University of Manitoba.
"The FTC with Team Canada was the best option for me," said Wilkins. "I needed to start training full time and at a level higher than I've ever trained."
She said she owes a lot to Dalhousie University women's volleyball coach Rick Scott for getting her to the centre.
"He contacted Team Canada's head coach, Arnd Ludwig, on my behalf and asked about me training with them full time. Lupo (Ludwig) knew who I was and remembered me from the 2011 national team tryouts in Montreal and asked me to come."
The 25-year-old from Gambo, who is one of six athletes in the program which runs until April 19, said she started training at the centre in November. Tryouts for the National B team are April 28 and making that squad is her immediate goal.
The aim of the FTC is to have a minimum of 8-10 identified athletes participating in the program.
According to the centre's web site, the purpose of FTC is, "to enhance the long-term objective of identifying, selecting and developing a group of athletes with ability or potential for qualifying for the 2014 FIVB Championship and the next two Olympic Games."
Wilkins' daily routine runs from 9 a.m. to just past noon, six days a week. There are two-hour weights and cardio sessions, practices and yoga once a week.
All of her expenses, including housing, bus passes, athletic therapy, massage, yoga and volleyball gear, are covered. The FTC athletes also have access to a full-time nutritionist, psychologist and personal trainer.
"Training full time with Team Canada's coaches is definitely a privilege and a great opportunity," said Wilkins, who is being used at the libero position in Winnipeg.
If she turns pro, she will likely play at the leftside since she says it is difficult to get a libero position overseas.
Her "ultimate goal," she said is to play for the national team at some point in her career.
"This year, my goal is to become to best defensive player I can possibly become and give it my best shot during tryouts at the end of April.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how much my game improves mentally and technically over the next four months. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but that's why I'm there."
She noted there have been players who in the past trained at the FTC for a year and have made Team Canada.
Wilkins is home for Christmas until Jan. 10. She'll start training again Jan. 14.
Sea-Hawks coach Bill Thistle, who coached Wilkins in her final year at MUN, said Wilkins has a great desire to play at the next level.
"Her work ethic and athletic ability will carry her a long way," he said.
Thistle said he'd wished he'd coached her more than one year.
"I hope she will get better and better and that it will inspire our young athletes to strive to their absolute best. It will also bring recognition to our MUN team and the program that we are trying to develop," he said.
Wilkins was an Atlantic University Sport conference rookie of the year (2005-06), named to the CIS all-rookie team in the same year, a first-team all-star in 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 and a second-team all-star in 2008-2009.
Wilkins also represented Newfoundland in the 2005 Summer Canada Games and was invited to the U21 Team Canada junior national team selection camp.