James Stamler was getting ready to take an architectural course at George Brown College in Toronto this fall.
But the plan was spiked a couple of weeks ago after he got a shot to play for a professional volleyball team in Sweden.
“I’m very excited,” Stamler said Monday while packing for his flight out of Toronto.
He arrived in Stockholm Wednesday, just in time for his Sodertelge VBK team’s last preseason exhibition tournament this weekend.
“It’s something I worked hard for … it’s a chance to play at the highest level,” he said during a telephone interview.
A Chippewa Secondary School graduate, he helped the Raiders to a NOSSA ‘AA’ gold and provincial quarter-final appearance in 2006.
Stamler went on to be the rookie of the year with the CIS national championship University of Alberta team in 2008, while also winning Alberta’s Under-21 provincial gold.
He transferred back to Ontario to attend the University of Guelph, capping off his university career with an Ontario University Athletics all-star nomination in 2011, an OUA silver medal in 2010 and Ontario Volleyball Association Under-21 silver in 2009.
Stamler, a middle-in attacker with defensive skills, stands six-foot-four with a standing reach of eight feet and spike touch of 11 feet, nine inches.
In an interview for his new team’s fans, he indicated his goals are broad-ranged.
“My competitive drive I think will add a depth to the team, but at the end of the day I want to be known for the drive I have to be a good teammate, a strong leader and a hard worker,” he said.
Stamler said his entry-level contract provides monthly paychecks while the team covers accommodation and travel.
His team is based out of a small town in southwest of Stockholm, and while it competes in the top Swedish league, it wasn’t at the top of the 10-team standings last year.
“It’s a good starting place to be,” he said, adding the contract runs through the eight-month season, starting in October.
Stamler, 24, isn’t the only Ontario volleyball product finding a home in Europe’s professional leagues. He said there’s at least two players he knows from the OUA, from Queen’s University who are also in the Swedish elite league.
And he said there’s several others from Canada in France, Germany, Russia and Poland.
Depending on how you perform, he said, the contracts get more lucrative, noting there’s a Canadian in Russia making $600,000.
While he has always been working on a creative career and working toward architecture, Stamler said he’s happy to put that off for a while.
“You’re only young once,” he said, explaining how volleyball players peak in their 30s and this is a good opportunity to break into the pro ranks.
Story by Dave Dale for The Nugget | Nugget.ca