Joel Kleingeltink was recently named the UFV men’s volleyball program’s third All-Canadian. The graduating business student and right side from Langley, B.C. is finishing off his fifth season in the PACWEST conference’s top five for offence and as a first team all-star. After half a decade of balancing classes, early morning practices, and road trips, Kleingeltink opens up on his experiences with the team, how he has grown as a person and athlete, and what he’ll miss most about being a Cascade.
Growing up, what attracted you to volleyball?
My brother, who was two years older than me, was playing on the school team and that kind of drew me to it at first, and on top of that, it was an excuse to miss my after-school chores when I had to stay to practice.
What is your favourite skill in volleyball?
That’s a tough question. The skills that I’m probably best at are attacking and serving, just flying up in the air and trying to hit the ball and find a spot on the floor where no one can get to it. On top of that, nothing feels better than putting up a big block and watching the ball go off your arms, straight into the floor.
What changed in the years you were named an academic All-Canadian to a men’s volleyball All-Canadian?
The academic All-Canadian is school-based, getting a 3.5 GPA and being a conference all-star. The two years prior I got that, I was a second-team all-star. What’s cool about this award is that it’s just based on volleyball, it has nothing to do with my school or education. It’s nice to be recognized for all the hard work I’ve put in for just the sport — the athlete side of the student-athlete part.
Adam Chaplain was the second men’s volleyball All-Canadian in the history of the Cascade’s program last season. With you being the third this season, what did you learn from him to get to that level?
Adam Chaplain is the hardest working guy I’ve ever met. I’ve never seen someone so dedicated to their craft. He’s the guy that it’s the weight room before practice and after practice, all throughout the summer. He stays late after practice working on things if they don’t feel right — I mean, just the dedication and the commitment. People talk about professional athletes that are almost crazy about it and Chaplain’s not crazy but he’s crazy about volleyball and he loves it so much. I think that’s why he’s doing so well and is pursuing it overseas as well.
What advice would you give to the future players of the Cascade’s volleyball program?
Have fun, enjoy it, and work hard. You can’t do five years of university volleyball or any sport really unless you are committed to it, and the only way you’re going to stay committed is if you really love it and enjoy it. Be true to yourself if you want to do it and go down that road, because it’s a huge commitment but it’s a lot of fun. You make good friends.
You’re notorious for your Instagram photos of the team on road trips. What’s your fondest memory on a road trip in your five years here?
First off, all the road trips are a blast. But I think you get used to them in your fifth year, it’s kind of a routine and you know what to expect. In my first year, the first road trip I went on was to Cranbrook, which was a 10-to-12-hour bus ride depending on the weather. It was awful but it was fun in its own way. I think the worst part about a bus is having your legs fall asleep all day. Me and a player at the time who’s now an assistant coach, Devin, we went for a walk around Cranbrook and there was snow. At the time, I don’t think there was any snow in the Lower Mainland so we were playing in the snow, a little bit of a snowball fight, shoving our faces in the snow, just having a good time. It was fun as a first-year thing, getting used to road trips and how they work, and exploring new cities which is a cool aspect of it.
In what ways has being a business major contributed to your success as a volleyball player?
That’s a good question. I think business is a lot about people and that’s one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had with the business program. If you think about sales, it’s selling yourself and unifying people and getting other people to see the benefits of a product. If you turn that into an athletic perspective, you’re trying to unify the team towards that one goal and trying to sell them on why they should be working and competing hard, and where we want to end up.
Do you plan to pursue volleyball professionally?
No, everyone has been asking that but I don’t plan on going overseas to play or do anything like that. It takes a lot of commitment and I think I’m better off playing in rec-leagues and switching into the coaching aspect of volleyball, and nurture some of the kids of the future, teach them things I’ve learned along the way and just put my competitive playing days behind me.
In what ways have you grown as a person since you first started at UFV?
Physically I’ve gained a lot of weight and grown a bit more, I’m a bit more solid of a person. But I think I’ve matured a lot. I’ve grown up, coming from in high school where I was one of the better players on my team and never had to earn my spot on the floor, to having to earn my way to get where I am. I’ve grown as a leader as well. When you get people in their first year to their fifth year, that’s a pretty large age gap, and trying to play an influence in those people’s lives and be more than just a teammate to them, help them with their schooling and getting to know the city, and a few other tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.
With this being your last season, what are you going to miss the most?
The friendships, seeing the guys every day and spending time with them, as well as the competing. I think the game day feeling, like driving to a game and going through the whole routine of getting ready and warming up until that first whistle, is probably what I’m going to miss the most. I can live without having to practice every day, all the weightlifting and stuff like that, but I think competing and competing with my brothers is [what I’m going to miss].
What are you going to take away from your volleyball career for the rest of your life?
I think competing and having that drive to succeed. Anything you are doing, the more passionate you are and the more you want it and want to succeed, the more likely you are to succeed. I think moving forward in life, finding things I’m passionate about or finding a way to be passionate about my work or my relationships with people will be something I’m going to take away from my time here.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.