It might be fair to say that if you asked the top men and women players in Canada who their favourite players were growing up, the answer would be John Child and Mark Heese. Their team alone raised the profile and popularity of Beach Volleyball in Canada with their bronze at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996 and their continued strong play for years on the FIVB World Tour.
Heeseâ€™s resume speaks for itself. He is a three-time Olympian, playing in over 160 World Tour Events, with over 80 International Top 10 finishes. On the home front he has also won 10 National Championships; seven with John Child, Rich VanHuizen (1) and Ahren Cadieux (2).
OVA:How many years of playing Beach?
Mark: Started playing at age 16, first Canadian tournament age 19, first World Tour event age 23, first Olympics age 26, last World Tour season 39
OVA: Why did you start playing Beach?
Mark: I lived in the Beaches area and hung out at the Balmy Beach Club as a paddler during the summers – the top players from the 80’s used to play there and I got interested by watching them play.
OVA: What do you like most about Beach Volleyball?
Mark: The challenge of managing your emotions and the learning that takes place from dealing with pressure situations.
OVA: What message would you give to any young beach athlete wanting to play for the National Beach Team?
Mark: Commit to a lofty goal, pool your resources, and develop a personal plan on how to achieve it – you are closer than you think.
Mark played Indoor Volleyball at his high school Malvern C.I and club for the Scarbourgh Solars. He also played varsity at McMaster University while he was studying for his Bachelor of P.H.E.
OVA: What are the advantages to indoor athletes who play beach volleyball?
Mark: The list of benefits of playing beach volleyball for indoor players, is extensive – the biggest one, in my opinion, is the personal responsibility you have to take in all aspects of practicing and competing – you are in charge, and the learning process of taking charge and becoming a leader has many technical, physical and mental carry-over positives for indoor athletes.
OVA: What are some of the challenges transferring from an athlete to a coach?
Mark: Coaching seems like a natural transition – but getting used to not competing as an athlete has been a very difficult reality to accept.
Volleyball continues to grow in popularity every year in Ontario and Canada. Volleyball Canada and the OVA have made some big strides for our Beach National team, including the hiring of our first Beach National Team coach, Lennard Krapp and partnering with Beach Blast and the Canadian Sport Centre to create a National Beach Volleyball Practice Centre in Ontario.
OVA: Where do you see Beach in Canada going in the next 5 years?
Mark: The next five years I see as building years, out of necessity – we have to continue to search for corporate and media partnerships to help fund and promote high profile beach volleyball properties – this is needed in order to bring stronger awareness and general support to our sport, but more importantly [to] give profile to our elite athletes and opportunities for them to properly prepare for international play. If answers aren’t found to this problem in the next 5 years, then we can’t expect much change.
OVA: If you could change one thing about our sport what would it be?
Mark: We’d have corporate support for a Canadian Pro Beach Tour as well as some high profile international competitions. As well we would have a clearer path for volleyball athletes to develop in Canada.
Mark has played professionally for over 16 years and has battled with the worldâ€™s best, including beach volleyball legends Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes in the semi finals at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
OVA: Best memory from playing on the World Tour?
Mark: Winning bronze at a Grand Slam in France in 1995 against Sinjin Smith from USA, and winning gold in Berlin vs. Brazil in 1996.
OVA: Best memory from the Olympic Games?
Mark: Standing on the podium in Atlanta with John Child
We would like to thank Mark Heese for all of his help with this article. We wish him the best of luck transitioning fromÂ player to coach and with his new role as partner/manager at Canuckstuff and owner of Maximum Reach.
(images courtesy of True North Volleyball Magazine)
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