May The Best Team Win

Tomorrow Saturday July 16th, two Canadian Men’s Beach teams will face off in North Bay, Ontario to see who will represent Canada in the 2016 Olympics. After losing to Cuba in the finals of the Continental Cup, our men had one final opportunity to earn Canada an Olympic berth and they did so by winning the World Cup in Sochi. Now, the teams of Josh Binstock & Sam Schachter, and Grant O’Gorman & Sam Pedlow must face off and play each other in a winner takes all match to decide who will go to Rio.  

Exactly four years ago prior to the 2012 Olympics I was in the same situation with Josh Binstock and this was the most important match of my career. This match changed the course of my life and to this day was my most mentally demanding experience as a volleyball player. Fifteen years of dedication to the sport I love and my Olympic destiny came down to one match; one opportunity; one defining moment.

The 2012 Olympic Trials. Photo: Zoran Milich, Sporsnet.ca and Sportsnet Magazine

The 2012 Olympic Trials. Photo: Zoran Milich, Sporsnet.ca and Sportsnet Magazine

In 2012 Josh and I alongside Ben Saxton & Christian Redman won the NORCECA Continental Cup together and earned Canada’s first beach berth to the Olympics since 2004. Having all played together in times past, this was a sweet victory for us as friends, former teammates and Canadians but that joint celebration was short lived as the qualification pathway still had to be claimed by one team. To combine forces one weekend and then play against each other the next was terrifying yet exhilarating. We were naked before the Gods; each athlete totally exposed with no room for error. This was to be the most vulnerable moment of our careers in pursuit of the most meaningful achievement of our lives and the entire volleyball community held its breath in anticipation.

Straight up - this match is different than any other event or tournament. The luxury of time and preparation is unique to this game only. Never do beach athletes have the opportunity of a full week to train for and strategize against a single opponent. This extended timeline allows far greater preparation but compounds the pressure immensely. Combatting the intensity of what awaits will require incredible calibration and poise, and the matchup of Josh Binstock & Sam Schachter vs. Sam Pedlow & Grant O’Gorman will be a memorable moment for Beach Volleyball fans across Canada.

Martin Reader and Josh Binstock celebrate a win at the NORCECA Continental Cup in 2012. Photo: FIVB

Martin Reader and Josh Binstock celebrate a win at the NORCECA Continental Cup in 2012. Photo: FIVB

Each individual athlete has to accept where he is at, firmly believe it is enough and commit to giving 100% with no second guessing. There is no place for excuses; there is only room for courage. It will come down to which athlete is willing to expose himself the most, play with an iron will and take full ownership of his performance to secure the berth as his own. 

This match is about the best team winning so that Canada has the strongest representation in Rio. Each team is totally accountable for their performance and each individual must prepare to show up with full acceptance and confidence in himself. Our men have been chiseled by the intense demands of the 2016 Olympic qualification process. This will be a fantastic match as they are both world class teams competing to bring their Olympic dreams to reality while making history for our nation.

Who will come out on top? Tune in Saturday at 2PM to find out.

Cover Photo: FIVB