Excellent Isn't a Switch: The Story of Aleks Poldma

Aleks Poldma.  Photo: Dan Ackerman.

 

I consider myself lucky to have met many of the best personalities in the sport of volleyball over the years. The volleyball community is very supportive and has some of the nicest people you will ever meet. People are always willing to help each other out and share their secrets to success. I remember speaking to Mark Heese after a practice session at Child/Heese this summer. I was wondering how to apply mental training aspects to practices with my indoor teams. He answered with something that may sound simple but definitely punched me in the brain. He said that you need daily practice of values outside of volleyball, daily commitments to them. Its difficult to bring qualities onto the court without valuing them off the court, then he had one more upper cut to my mind "excellence isn't a switch." Now I told you this story to set up another one. I've gotten better at these commitments but still find it difficult to be your very best at every little thing you do on a daily basis. I recently caught up with Aleks Poldma 5th year student at the University of Waterloo. We spoke about how he is excelling in all areas of his life.

"Coming up next term I have the launch of Hydrated World, my last term of school, my last year of volleyball and importantly playoff time, and I am the team leader of University of Waterloo's Shell Eco-Marathon team, let alone hanging out with girls, friends, family, or contributing to my Estonian community." 

Aleks Poldma of The Waterloo Warriors.  Photo: Dan Ackerman.

Aleks Poldma of The Waterloo Warriors.  Photo: Dan Ackerman.

Aleka Poldma's volleyball career started at York Mills C.I. in Toronto where he was coached by Mira Wong and Imants Koskins. "Fantastic people that I still keep in touch with and ask them for advice and life lessons. Learned about hard work and discipline from them, and they got me started in competitive volleyball." In his grade 11 year I met Aleks when he started playing club for Derek Poon and Mike Murphy at Interclub 17U. After a decent club season Aleks committed to playing beach for most of the summer which got him in better volleyball shape for his 18U year. In 18U Interclub would finish 2nd in the province and take a 5th at Nationals. His strong season would lead to a spot on Team Ontario that summer. While with Team O Aleks would reach a goal of playing at the university level when he was recruited by the University of Waterloo. That season Aleks would break the starting line up for the Warriors and would receive several honours including OUA All rookie team, CIS All rookie team and University of Waterloo's Rookie of the Year. After a few injury plagued seasons Aleks is healthy again this year as he helped the Warriors finish 7-3 this semester. Setting the stage for a tough second semester in OUA volleyball. Playing at the OUA level is a big time commitment on its own, lets move on to what Aleks has going on outside of Varsity. He is in his 5th year at Waterloo as a mechanical engineer student which has lead him into several awesome projects. 

Hydrated World is a project started with Spencer Kelly fellow mechanical engineering classmate and roommate, Mihkel Poldma younger brother, student at York University and Defenceman for the Aurora Tigers Jr A Hockey Club and Matthew Scott Ryerson student and DJ - Scotty Scratch. Aleks and Spencer choose to create their own company for a coop credit. Now before you think they are taking the easy way out creating their own company instead of working on a placement in their field. It was a big risk turning down a placement in the mechanical engineering. Engineering students can make over $10,000 a term while on coop. When thinking of a project the group was influenced by Toms and Ten Tree, they wanted to make a difference in the world while making a living. The idea of Hydrated World came from Spencer and Aleks love of being creative with engineering while working with people. The easiest way to describe the project is Hydrated World is an apparel company with a mission to eliminate the water crisis. Every 5 items purchased provides one person with access to clean water. "Most people in our younger generation wouldn't donate to a charity. But they would buy something that benefits them and a charity if they really like the product. That's why our products have to be awesome, or else people won't buy them. Also, people want to show off that they contributed to something, which is what we want to show off with our brand." So far they have won 2 pitch competitions: the Norman Esch Entrepreneurship Award and the Nicol Entrepreneurial award. "The more success we have directly correlates to more people around the world with access to clean drinking water. That is why our business model is creates a scalable solution: as we grow as a company, our impact on the developing nations grows." You can learn more about it on our website: www.hydratedworld.com or check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Aleks is also a team leader of the University of Waterloo's Shell Eco-Marathon team. "The Shell Eco-Marathon project was originally a part of our 4th year design project, but since we're building an electric car, the scope has turned into a new student team." The team will compete at the Shell Eco-Marathon competition at the Discovery Green Park and George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston Texas from April 25-27, 2014. Over 100 teams from across the Americas will compete with their energy efficient vehicles. The winning team's car will travel the farthest distance while using the least amount of energy. For more information on the competition visit: http://www.shell.com/global/environment-society/ecomarathon.html

Aleks during a match against Guelph.  Photo: Dan Ackerman.

Although Aleks hasn't been involved with the Estonian community as much as he would like to, he recently went to Estonia for a week for my Estonian fraternity's 100 year anniversary. The trip was during the first semester and he had to miss a varsity game. Waterloo lost their OUA match that week to Ryerson. Before he left Aleks received the green light from Coach Chris Lawson for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Over the years Aleks has been involved with a lot of areas of the Estonian community. He attended Estonian school, does folk dancing, actively involved with Estonian Scouts, helps out at the camp, participates with their fraternity. "I look forward to reconnect with the community and give back when I graduate and have some more time. Growing up in our tight knit Esto community taught me so much and contributed so much to who I am and all my values."

So how does he do it? Here are few quick tips:

1.  Time Management

It's just discipline and time management, I rarely waste time. Hydrated World, studying, working on the car are all pretty flexible things. Meaning I can work on it typically whenever I want. Where practice and class have strict times, so I have to work around that. So what I do is I always plan out my days and weeks in advanced to the half hour. I never have more than half hour wasted or in between meetings/classes/working/etc. If I have therapy or other things like that I schedule the times so I bunch everything together when I'm on campus and what not. Any trip I make or day I plan, I kill many birds with one stone.

I typically don't waste much time. I'm either working, training, eating, sleeping, or sometimes taking a mental break to watch a show, or play some video games with the roommates; but this is minimal. Typically, I don't have weekends, I work/study/train 7 days a week. If I go out, it typically is a Saturday night after a game to let off some steam and have fun. Going home for me is amazing. I am so close with my family, and it's always relaxing to come home and sleep, eat, and hang out with my 2 brothers. 

2. Surround Yourself with Good People

Another thing that has helped me so much has been the great people that are in my life. My class buddies, eco-car teammates, volleyball teammates, business partners are always there working hard which makes my job much easier. Being able to trust other people to get things done makes my life a lot easier. That's a big thing that I take pride in - integrity. Doing things that you said you're going to do, and doing them well. That's what I do, and my teammates in all aspects of my life do. And all my friends, family, and others support what I do and let me be flexible with my work/school/and volleyball. My classmates will do some more work on projects than me if I'm away for games and stuff and I'll make up for it. My business partners have been great with taking on more workload when I'm swamped with volleyball and other stuff. So these amazing people that I work with, support me, and play with, have been integral in me being able to balance all this stuff.

3. Be Efficient 

I am extremely efficient in what I do too, I just get things done. Whether its learning something for school very fast, or getting  task done for work really quickly. The smartphone has helped me so much because I can do almost anything wherever I am. I also tend to eat well and sleep lots, which helps me keep focused and lets me get things done fast and stay sharp.

4. Combine "Tasks" with Things You Enjoy

Lastly, I make "tasks" into social outings. Hanging out and talking business with the roommates is "working" but also "chilling". Going to workout with some buddies in Toronto during the break is  "training" but "hanging out". Same with cooking awesome meals. Putting the fun into things takes away from work and training, and turns it into a social outing or an event. Hanging out with the engineering boys and building this eco-car is more fun than work, which makes it easier to balance my life. Often, practice/workouts is a nice break from schoolwork, work, or other things in my life. 

Good luck to Aleks with all of his projects this year and beyond. I know he's inspired me to be better, hopefully he does the same for you to be great at everything you do, excellence isn't a switch.