From the hard court of Red Deer College’s main gym to the sandy beaches around the world, it’s been quite a journey for Chaim Schalk.
In between he managed to finish his schooling at Trinity College in Langley B.C. and has since been on the pro beach volleyball circuit.
“It was a lot of adjusting switching over to beach when I finished my indoor career. It’s quite a different game and takes a lot of overall skill,” said the 6’6” tall grad of the RDC Kings volleyball program.
“It’s taken me some time to get my game to where I want it to be at and it’s still a continual process.”
He now calls California home where he trains full time for the rigorous beach circuit. Recently he and partner Ben Saxton took the bronze medal at an event in the Dominican Republic.
He was encouraged by his RDC coach Keith Hansen to pursue a career in the sport albeit under a roof but Schalk says with the amount of beach volleyball he played in the summer he fell in love with the game.
“After I finished my indoor career I started taking it seriously,” he said of the beach volleyball. “That’s when it started clicking that I could go places with this and it’s exciting for sure.”
Schalk says the beach game is a lot tougher on the body as you are trying to move around the playing area which is of course loose sand.
“One positive about that is it’s good on the body because your not jumping and landing on a hard surface,” he said, not to mention the temperatures which can climb to between 35C and 40C so conditioning to play in those climates is of prime importance, he said.
“If teams are not right physically they’ll end up tapering off and struggling so you need to have your physical game at a high level.”
Schalk credits his former coach Hansen for getting him into the mindset of playing under pressure, which is what he and his partner face each time out on the pro circuit.
“He taught us to bring our ‘A’ game each time out and if we didn’t we faced the consequences,” he said.
The move to California was in order to train and compete against some of the best players in the world and Schalk says they are loving the battles on the sand.
“We both feel that if we want to be a top team in the world then we need to be training like these top teams in the world.”
This year marks the start of the longest season in beach volleyball with the start happening in late March and concluding with world tour events late into November.
What it adds up to is a small window in order to get better and at the same time prepare for the next season on the sand.
“It’s pretty crazy because you want to have that time to recover and to actually be able to work out and increase your strength,” he said.
The sport is driven by prize money which makes it difficult for teams to be able to call this their day job and Schalk says you need to be top 10 in the world to make decent money.
As National team athletes he and Saxton get some stipend money to help them cut costs which is appreciated but the main sources of income would be sponsorships and winning events.
“But some (sponsors) don’t give money to players anymore so we get more product instead,” he said. “It’s not easy for sure but we put an expectation on ourselves to do well and this year we’re going to get some results and make that money.”