By Grant McDonald
Whether he was playing beach volleyball, taking a slap shot, or even welding his own snowboarding rails, Erik Janssen has always been athletic.
Now the rookie sensation has stormed Ryerson’s Kerr Hall gym and is proving to be a dominant player on the already-dominant Ryerson volleyball team. Janssen, an 18-year-old from Hampton, Ont., near Oshawa, has been playing beach volleyball since he played for the Ganaraska Wovles in Grade 7.
At the time he also played hockey, but stopped at age 16 when he discovered another passion: snowboarding. After being introduced to the sport by his brother, Janssen’s athletic skill took him into competitive racing. Janssen suddenly found himself constantly thinking about the slopes. He rode at the Oshawa Ski Club. “My friend who is on the world national team got me into the racing,” Janssen said. He eventually placed in the top five in one all-Ontario race.
While in high school, Janssen and his friends would spend time in their welding class building rails to grind on. Later they built their own snowboard park in Janssen’s seven-acre yard. “We made our teachers start up a snowboarding team in Grade 12. We cleaned up. We never used to go to qualifiers, we just showed up at the competitions and won,” Janssen said. He kept playing volleyball in the summers; both sports involve a great deal of anticipation and reaction.
But now Janssen has decided to focus on his volleyball skills, forcing him to give up the rush of the mountains and get his feet back on the ground. He only hits the slopes when he has time, and with his busy schedule, that means Christmas holiday. This is, however, good news for Ryerson.
Head coach of the men’s volleyball team Mirek Porosa was very excited when Janssen made the decision to come to Ryerson. “He was one of the standouts in the club he played for,” Porosa said. Porosa added it usually takes a while for first-year students to get used to university; it took Erik only one semester.
“When he settled down, his volleyball level just grew tremendously,” Porosa said. The coach believes that with such an impressive start, Janssen will be the future of the team. Janssen has not only settled on the court, but also with the other players. Oleh Kovalchuk, another Rams rookie, has nothing but respect for his teammate. “He fits in really well, especially when we need defense. On and off the court, Erik’s the man,” Kovalchuk said. The versatility of Janssen’s play can be attributed to his years of beach volleyball.
“The type of player he is, it’s just a pleasure to play with him,” Kovalchuk said.
Dave Dubois, program director of sports and recreation, also sees Janssen doing great things for the volleyball team in the future. “It’s hard to say. Three years from now is a long time, but I do see him as a leader,” said Dubois. “And boy he can jump.” Dubois adds that Janssen is a great strength to have coming in from the bench.
Janssen is a great passer, which helps the team when setting up powerhouse Ryan Vandenburg. “He’s a very smart individual, so he understands the game, he picks it up really easily, and he has the athletic ability,” Dubois said. Terry Haggerty, Interuniversity Sport manager, believes that Janssen is another piece to the puzzle.
“He’s fitting in very well,” Haggerty said. “He’s developing well and he’s getting more minutes as the season goes on.”