VIdeo Spotlight - Amber Brown

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Sometimes Amber Brown thinks perhaps it was God who struck her in the head with a volleyball last October.

In reality, it was an errant ball hit by one of her Trinity Western teammates, but the result seemed like God had something to do with it.

Back in October of 2011, Brown, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter from Three Hills, Alta, was back on the court and chopping at the bit to get the Canada West season rolling. It had been more than a year since she had played a meaningful game and she finally felt back to normal.

Just three days before the start of the 2010 training camp, playing at the Canadian beach volleyball national championships with former Spartans women’s volleyballer Kara Jansen Van Doorn, Brown had dislocated her knee cap and torn her MCL. She was forced to the sidelines for a full year.  

So in the morning of that fateful Tuesday in early October 2011, she was typical Amber Brown: excitable, energetic, talkative and most certainly delighted to be gearing up for what would have been her first year as a full-time starter at Trinity Western.

And it was on that morning that Brown was a guest speaker at chapel. In front of the gathered assembly, she talked about the 2010-11 season in which she had to sit out due to her knee injury. She talked about trusting in God.

“I was explaining about how God was good even though I didn’t understand why my knee injury had happened, but I knew God had a plan,” said the now fourth-year Brown. “I was saying that God is good and I would continue to trust him and trust his way is the better way.

“Then that night I got smoked in the head and everything kind of fell apart. It was like God just hit me, kind of like saying, ‘Put some actions to your words.’”

That Tuesday, Brown suffered a severe concussion. Her anticipated return to the court suddenly turned into an autumn of dark rooms, headaches and Brown, who was always a social butterfly, trapped in the cocoon that is post-concussion syndrome.

“It was a really difficult time,” Brown said. “It felt weird because I couldn’t be involved with anything because I would just stay in my room and try to sleep. I felt really separated.

“I was struggling through why my mood was going all over the place when that’s not who I am. They said with post-concussion syndrome your personality changes. And I had never been so low in my life before.

“But at the same time, I definitely grew closer to God.”

And it was that talk she had given to her fellow students that kept ringing in her head. Somehow, God had a plan. Someway, things would work out.

On Jan. 6, 2012, Brown finally got back on the volleyball court in an exhibition game against Laval. The following weekend, she would return to Canada West action in a weekend series against Alberta. While she largely filled the role of depth player throughout the rest of the season, at least she was back and playing.  

But then, shortly after the national championships – where she helped the Spartans beat St. Mary’s in the consolation final by registering seven kills and three blocks – the headaches returned.

“It came back way worse,” Brown said.

That’s when the doctors told her she likely would have to quit the sport she loved.  The sport she had played since she was a youngster. The sport she couldn’t wait to play every Sunday afternoon since she was 10 years old when the two most prominent volleyball families in Three Hills would face off on the sand: the Browns vs. the Enns’s.  

But, the doctor said, the reality was if she wanted her headaches to go away, she would have to stop playing. At least for a long time.

“I was shocked and mad,” Brown said. “It more like, ‘What am I going to do now?’ It was really scary. But then I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m stopping volleyball.’”

And as it would turn out, God indeed had a plan after all.

If not for the recurring headaches, Brown likely would have gone to Toronto for the summer to pursue her strongest passion: beach volleyball. Instead, she stayed in B.C. And instead of playing, the business major put her studies to good use.
In May 2012, she started West Coast Beach Volleyball. It was the first summer beach volleyball program in B.C. that gave women who were in university or beyond an opportunity to train in a competitive environment right in Vancouver. Prior to Brown’s initiative, the best beach volleyball players generally were forced to train and play in Toronto.

“My goal was to help Canada get better at volleyball and that’s when I started my business to help Canada West get better at beach volleyball and volleyball on the whole,” she said. “God was good and he definitely had a hand in starting West Coast. God used me to start it. If I hadn’t been dealing with my concussion, I wouldn’t have started West Coast Beach Volleyball.”

“God gave me West Coast. And Him giving me West Coast was what helped me get out of the concussion state.”

Launching WCBV in May, Brown at first was a sideline observer while becoming an expert at setting up nets. But within a few weeks, with her symptoms disappearing, Brown was able to get back in the game.

Training with nearly 30 women under the direction of five coaches, WCBV was doing exactly what it was meant to do: help volleyball players, especially Brown, elevate their games during the off-season and give those with higher level beach aspirations a chance to continue to develop while staying in Vancouver.

For Brown, it also helped her get an opportunity to play beach volleyball locally and, for the first time in her career, abroad.

Brown, playing alongside Kristina Vlcek, travelled to both Germany and Austria for local pro tournaments before returning to Canada and finishing third at Kelowna’s Center of Gravity tournament and in a tie for fifth at the Vancouver Open. And for Brown, whose ultimate goal is to make the Canadian national beach team and, further down the road, qualify for the Olympics, this was a major step forward on the sand.

At the same time, this past summer allowed her to take several huge strides in her ability to continue playing, and starting, at Trinity Western.

And now, finally, in her fourth year of eligibility but fifth year at the Langley school, she has become a fixture in the starting unit.

“It’s seriously awesome to actually get to play and make a difference,” Brown said with a huge smile. “It feels like I’ve waited forever.”

Only four games into the season, she’s tied for second on the team with 30 kills and has been the sparkplug starter coach Ryan Hofer has eagerly awaited for four years.

“Amber brings a lot of control to the floor,” said Hofer. “She brings a lot of fire. She loves to compete. With that, she raises the intensity that’s on the floor. She’s a smart attacker and knows how to find seems and in the back court she’s a great defender and a solid passer. I’m stoked that she can contribute this year.”

With her beach volleyball skills translating to the indoor game, Brown is something of a jack-of-all-trades. And on a team stacked with talented attackers, she’s a perfect piece to the Spartans puzzle.

“My role is to be a controlled player,” Brown said. “That’s what I am good at from playing beach. I am more the person who makes good shots, puts the ball in play and tries not to make errors. I need to pass well. I need to do everything well but I don’t necessarily need to have one outstanding thing.”

It’s now been over a year since she suffered her concussion. At times, there’s no doubt it was a trying year. At times, perhaps even some of the most difficult weeks and months of her life. But through it all, she still can go back to what she said on that Tuesday. God has a plan.

“I see volleyball more as a gift now as opposed to a right, and now I’m even more so focused on honouring God through it,” she said.

“I’d say it was a blessing.”


Last Updated: 2012-11-09
Author: Mark Janzen