Josh McKay has been around the national volleyball program plenty in his young life, but now, for the first time, he’ll be on the court instead of the sidelines.
The 18-year-old setter from St. Boniface has been to numerous practices and games over the years as his father, University of Winnipeg head coach Larry McKay, has been involved with the national program.
Last week, after a strong showing at the National Team Challenge Cup tournament in Gatineau, Que., McKay became one of three Manitobans to make the national junior men’s team.
Along with libero Riley Delavau and power hitter Jarrid Ireland, McKay will be playing for his country in the under-21 NORCECA Championships beginning Aug. 27 in Colorado Springs, Colo., with a chance to earn a spot in the 2013 Men’s Junior World Championship.
"Since I can remember, it’s been a goal of mine forever," McKay said of playing for Team Canada. "I was speechless (when told I made the team). It was the most satisfying moment of my life for sure."
The moment was made even more satisfying for McKay when his longtime teammate Delavau was also added to the roster. The Wesmen teammates also played together at Darwin School and at Dakota Collegiate, where they won a provincial championship.
"It’s awesome," McKay said. "I guess you could say we’re almost like brothers in the sense we’ve been playing together forever. It’s awesome to share this experience with him."
Ireland, a Transcona Collegiate graduate who plays at UBC, also considered it a longtime goal to play for Canada, but wasn’t sure how realistic his chances were.
"I never really knew that one day I’d be representing Canada," said the 19-year-old from Transcona. "I never knew I’d have this opportunity. But I worked hard towards it, and it paid off in the end.
"I was just so happy, ecstatic, there were so many things going through my head. I had tears of joy. It was such a huge accomplishment for me."
The team is centralized in Gatineau for a month, before heading southwest to face elite teams like the U.S., Cuba and Puerto Rico. At least two teams will qualify for the 2013 worlds. Canada lost to the U.S. in the gold medal game in the last NORCECA event in 2010.
"All the guys that were selected are here for a reason," Ireland said. "We’re all top athletes. This is another big step for all of us in terms of international play, but we have no idea what to expect."
One thing both McKay and Ireland are expecting is a higher level of play than what they found in their first year in CIS.
"We have a month to train and figure out everybody’s role," McKay said. "If we qualify for worlds I’ll be super pumped. And if we win it would be even better."