Spartan Spotlight - Branden Schmidt

LANGLEY, British Columbia - In 2007, National Geographic published The Knowledge Book.

It’s an exhaustive collection of history and facts produced with a subtitle on the cover that claims the contents to be: “Everything You Need to Know to Get By in the 21st Century.”

From architecture to pop culture to religion to microwaves, the 512-page ensemble is an orchestra of information. Perhaps it’s the only encyclopedia you really need.

Branden Schmidt’s copy resides prominently on the desk in the bedroom of the basement suite where he lives. It appears well used.

Nearly every day since he got the book at the start of last summer, the Trinity Western fourth-year middle has flipped through at least a page or two.  

“I love to know things,” Schmidt says before explaining that, “Our sun is actually too small to turn into a black hole. It has to be more than five times the size to have enough gravity to turn itself into a black hole.”

He’s a reader and a bastion of knowledge; both useful and, as he readily admits, useless. But if the Spartans men’s volleyball team every needed a Jeopardy contestant, Schmidt would be the man.

Beyond his daily perusal of The Knowledge Book, Schmidt is also currently reading City of God by St. Augustine and The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli. For pleasure. This, while also keeping up with both his business leadership literature and the occasional fantasy novel. Not to mention, the reading he must do for school.

When it comes to knowledge, he has no prejudice.

And when it comes to volleyball, the man who spends hours buried in books desperate for discovery isn’t much different.

On the court, he’s as smart as they come and, not surprisingly, he’s always trying to learn more.

While he was recruited out of high school as a middle blocker, the product of De Winton, Alta. who graduated from Calgary’s Centennial High School, has spent considerable time, both with TWU and on provincial and national sides, learning to play as an outside hitter, both on the right and left.

After playing last season almost entirely on the outside and competing with Team BC at the Canada Summer Games as a left side, when he returned to TWU, he found himself back in the middle but with the rare skill set to contribute anywhere on the court.

“He’s that universal player that (Canada) coach (Glen) Hoag talks about all the time,” says Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “He’s super smart and he has great feet, great hands and fast arms and he’s super competitive.”

While he may only be a 6-foot-6 middle, as former Spartan Rudy Verhoeff has proven on the international stage, speed and skill can trump size.

“If you’re looking for efficiency, that’s what Brandon’s all about,” says Josephson, who is quick to physically compare Schmidt to Verhoeff. “For a guy that size to be second in the conference in blocks, it tells you that he closes well and he’s high enough.”

Through the first 12 matches of the season, Schmidt’s 1.44 blocks per set is second in Canada West, only trailing fifth-year teammate Lucas Van Berkel, who has 1.52 blocks per set. And this production is coming off a summer in which he nearly quit volleyball altogether.

Over the course of last season Schmidt had started to lose his passion for volleyball. In his third year, he wasn’t a starter, nor did he really even have a specific position.

After the last season, he was leaning towards his pursuit of business. Up until this past season, volleyball had been everything in his life. Suddenly it wasn’t. Suddenly, he realized there was more to life than volleyball.

“I didn’t really know where my volleyball future was going,” Schmidt says. “I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I was in the past. Practices became a grind.”

However, a discussion after the season with Josephson got Schmidt back on board.

“One of the man reasons I ended up staying was because of how much Ben believed in me,” Schmidt says.

In that meeting, Josephson also reminded him of the joy that comes from playing volleyball with friends.

“The biggest thing is just the guys on the team,” Schmidt says. “They’re like a family and I didn’t want to walk away from them. Figuring out that it was more about being with the guys than playing volleyball really helped enjoy the sport again.

“If I would have been on a different team, there would have been no question I would have quit.”

After a summer playing under Josephson’s direction at the Canada Summer Games, Schmidt returned to TWU rejuvenated.

He quickly realized a move back to the middle was likely and, now as a leader on team, his broad knowledge of each position and his comfort level as a middle allowed him to help the team get off to an impressive start. Through 12 games, the Spartans are 11-1 and as a team lead the conference in blocks with 2.99 per set.

“I think for right now, having played other positions helped me appreciate what other guys are struggling with and I understand how to help them,” Schmidt says. “For myself, it’s helped me appreciate the game from a whole perspective. Rather than understanding just one position, I can understand how all the positions work together.”

Schmidt has quickly developed into arguably one of the top five or six middles in the country and is playing the best volleyball of his career. He’s started all 12 matches this year, has a hitting percentage of .367 and is tied with teammate Nick Del Bianco for third in the conference in aces with 0.41 per set.

“He’s back in the middle where he feels most comfortable,” Josephson says. “When he’s in the middle, it’s like watching someone in his element. It’s like watching a musician play or an artist paint. He just looks right.”

Be it within a 512-page book or on the court, he’s plenty smart enough to understand a bright concept.

For this year, that has him thriving in the middle.

And for the future, you can imagine he’ll get by just fine in the 21st century.

Last Updated: 2014-01-10
Author: Mark Janzen

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