By Dan Olson - Coquitlam Now, LINK to Coquitlam Now site

Injuries can change the course and trajectory of those who compete in the sports world.

They can also give pause and a purpose for the next step of a dream.

For Coquitlam's Derek Thiessen, a knee injury may have stalled his progress on the volleyball court, but it couldn't halt it. The one-time Centennial Secondary star is now part of the red-and-white, preparing for the men's world junior world volleyball championships as a member of Team Canada.

Although the knee injury occurred two years ago, just prior to starting his post-secondary career at Trinity Western University, the brake it applied to his playing served in some ways as a break of another kind.

"I knew it would be a long road to recovery but what I didn't know was how hard it would be to live a life where sports would no longer define me," Thiessen told The NOW in an e-mail interview from Team Canada's home base of Gatineau, Que.

"Sure, volleyball was still a huge part of my life but not practicing or playing for more than seven months took its toll."

Complications to his recovery tested his resiliency, but with the support of his TWU comrades and training staff, led by coach Ben Josefson, Thiessen persevered, and learned something about himself in the process.

"Since then I have been so much more grateful for this opportunity. I have to play the sport I love. I love everything about this game and everything it has taught me in life."

It launched him to his next stage - pursuing a spot on the Canadian national squad. The people at TWU played a critical role in the next step of the process, as the 20-year-old trained with his teammates to get some much-needed prep time.

"I knew my blocking needed to improve and I also know that the national team looks for aggressive and hard-working athletes so [I had to train] every day to instil that kind of mentality into my playing style," he said.

He made up for lost time and used the competitive environment at the Langley campus as a training ground. Thiessen racked up 20 kills in part-time duty with the Spartans en route to the 2010 Canadian national championship.

As a learning opportunity, it was hard to top. "I didn't play much at Trinity but my role was to be a young hard worker who pushes his teammates to be better. I know that my time will come and when that day comes I know I'll be ready."

At last month's national tryout camp, Thiessen's time did come, pushing for one of the 14 positions up for grabs. After the final line-out, he waited nervously with his fellow athletes to hear the final roster.

"The first words [the coaches] told me [was] exactly what I was hoping to hear and from then on I couldn't help but smile for the remainder of the meeting," he recalled.

The six-foot-five outside hitter is looking forward to helping Canada rise up the international charts at the July 31 to Aug. 10 championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"I now have a chance to be a significant part of this team and being a player that my teammates can trust, instead of me looking for others to rely on," he said.

Last Updated: 2012-03-07
Author: Mark Janzen