Mar the 01 Corporate
Alumni Spotlight: Gina Schmidt
VC Alumni Spotlight catches up with past National Team members. This edition features Gina Schmidt, who was active from 2003 to 2007 with the women’s indoor team.
Gina Schmidt didn’t make it a personal goal to play for the women’s national volleyball team.
However, she did have a love for the sport and the drive to be the best that she could be.
That passion caught the eyes of Volleyball Canada.
“I was identified when I was 16 or 17 to try out for the junior national team,” Schmidt told Volleyball Canada. “After making that, I just continued on the pathway to the Senior A team.”
As the Beaverlodge, Alberta, native was growing up though, she started following the sport closely.
“Before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, I probably couldn't have named anyone on our women's national team,” Schmidt started. “But I do remember watching the Games and cheering on the likes of Janis Kelly, Kerri Buchberger and Wanda Guenette. Some of those players were still around when I attended my first Senior Women's tryout in 1998 and I remember looking up to them.
“I also remember the men's national team playing an exhibition match in Grande Prairie, Alberta in the mid-90s and being starstruck by the power and athleticism of players like Paul Duerden and Randy Gingera.”
After those experiences, it wasn’t long before Schmidt was donning the maple leaf herself.
“The first time I represented Canada was with the Junior National Team at the (1998) NORCECA Championships in Cuernavaca, Mexico,” Schmidt said. “What I remember the most was just how different the playing environment was in another country. The gym had open-air windows that made it hot and humid and rain leaked through the roof creating small puddles around the court.
“It was the first time I'd experienced high altitude that made it difficult to breathe during long rallies. The crowds were bigger and louder than what I had ever experienced back home. I also remember feeling a lot of pride getting to represent my country and we often found the crowds cheering for us except for when we played the home team.”
While the first time representing Canada is an unforgettable experience, the opportunity to play at home exceeds that.
“Competing in the (1999) World Junior Championships in Saskatoon was particularly special,” Schmidt explained. “It was one of the few tournaments hosted here in Canada. Most of our NORCECA competitions were held in the Caribbean during my career, so the chance to compete in front of my friends, family, and a supportive home crowd was really special.”
Joining the senior team in 2003, Schmidt and Team Canada travelled more and that meant more memorable experiences for the young athlete.
“My first year with the Senior team we did a European tour to France, Poland and Russia,” Schmidt said. “It was a month-long tour that was both gruelling and fun. There were so many memorable moments during this trip but visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland and Red Square in Moscow really stand out.”
In her time with the women’s national team, Schmidt helped Canada in four Pan-American Cups (fifth, two sixth, and a seventh-place finish), two NORCECA Championships (fourth and fifth-placed finishes), and the 2003 World Grand Prix (12th).
After starring for the NCAA’s Oregon State Beavers, including a 2002 Oregon’s NCAA Woman of the Year honour, while earning her degree in Business Administration, Schmidt took her talents overseas. She played professionally in Switzerland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Finland from 2002 to 2008.
“I hope that I am remembered for having a positive influence on everyone I encountered during my time with the national team,” Schmidt said. “This includes my teammates and coaches but also the local community that supported us and the young players across the country who looked up to us as role models.”
After her playing career ended, Schmidt took to the sidelines as a coach, continuing to be driven by her passion for volleyball. After serving as an assistant coach at the University of Montana and Team Canada at the 2013 FISU Summer Games, she accepted the head coach role in Vancouver, British Columbia at Simon Fraser University, where she is still coaching.
“I think the fact that I played multiple positions in my career, even competing as both a setter and an outside hitter with the National Team, helped me gain a wide range of knowledge as it relates to skill and positional training,” Schmidt said. “Being a former player, I would also say I'm a fairly athlete-centred coach.
“Before I ask my team to do something, I first ask myself if it is something that I would have found value in as a player. I was fortunate to have been a part of many successful teams and I recognize that one of the common threads in those groups was a positive team culture. So as a coach, I am driven to create a similar culture of success for our athletes.”
As a coach, Schmidt is now moulding the next generation of athletes as they look to advance their volleyball careers. For those looking to represent their nation at the peak of the sport, the former national team member has some advice.
“Play a lot of volleyball,” Schmidt starts. “Work hard but also work smart. How you eat, sleep, and recover is just as important as how hard you train.”
- Interview by Josh Bell