Vernon’s Britt Page doesn’t own a single stick of furniture. There’s not enough room in her suitcase.
Instead, the 30-year-old volleyball nomad has two fully stamped passports, having played pro in Europe for the past seven seasons. She has also racked up plenty of air miles with the Canadian women’s team since 2009.
Her current home is Chengdu, China. It is the capital city of the Sichuan province in southwest China. With a population of more than 14 million, it is also the country’s fourth-largest centre.
“After playing professionally in Europe (Spain, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Belgium and Germany) it’s really neat for me to have a new experience at this point in my career,” said Page.
“There aren’t many foreigners playing in China, and no Canadian women have ever played here, so I feel like it’s a really special opportunity for me.
“I really love the culture and team here. The Chinese league is so fast, you really have to be on point every moment.”
Page is the elder statesperson on the Canadian women’s team. Her 102 career international matches are 23 more than the next nearest member, libero Janie Guimond of Becancour, Que. When Canada failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics in London, in 2012, Page was the obvious choice for captain in the ensuing shake-up.
“It was a natural progression for me at that point, given the new group,” she said. “I definitely had big shoes to follow, so I was a little nervous and wondering ‘Okay, how do I have to act? Am I going to be a different kind of player now?’”
Page, a Seaton Sonic grad who went on to play for the NCAA Eastern Washington Eagles, credits outgoing captain Tammy Mahon for grooming her for the role.
“She was always one of my closest teammates which helped me gain valuable insight as a rookie on the team. It’s a role that has evolved for me and I’ve found a way to be my best self on the court and support the team as a captain.
“The best leadership style is always to lead by example, step up/speak up in the tough moments and respect your team and program.
“A lot of girls have grown as leaders in recent years and we all build off each other.”
The post-Olympic turnover seems to have rejuvenated the Canadians, who have jumped seven spots in the FIVB world rankings to No. 16 since 2012.
Their strong play earned them an invite to the World Grand Prix, a grueling three-week tournament in Peru, Belgium and Argentina last summer. It was only Canada’s second appearance in the Grand Prix since it began in 1993, and first since 2003.
Canada, guided by German head coach Arnd (Lupo) Ludwig, finished 19th, with wins over Argentina (No. 14 world ranking) and No. 23 Peru.
“It’s a competition that offers as many challenges as rewards,” said Page. “I think we went a month without a day off. It was an excellent opportunity for us to play teams throughout Europe, and it was broadcast on Sportsnet.”
Canada continued its busy summer schedule at the FIVB World Championships in Italy, where they placed 17th.
“It’s a very prestigious tournament in volleyball and we had the opportunity to compete against top teams such as Brazil,” said Page. “Above all, it was a learning experience, and more importantly, we got better together.”
Ludwig made the most of Page’s versatility this summer. He had her start on the right side in Canada’s world championship qualifier in May, and then at the Pan American Cup a month later, she switched to the left. At the Grand Prix and World Championships, she was back on the right again.
“Britt is doing whatever it takes to help the team,” said Ludwig. “She played various positions and roles for us. No matter what we asked from her she did a great job.
“She has played in a lot of different leagues, and right now she is playing in one of the top leagues in the world in China. She brings her experience in the gym, in the daily training sessions, and into our games.”
The coming summer is shaping up to be no less hectic for Page and the Canadians. They’re heading back for another Grand Prix and Norcecas (zone championships). However, she is most looking forward to hosting the Pan Am Games, July 10-26, in Toronto.
“I was fortunate enough to attend the last Pan Am Games in Guadalajara (Mexico, 7th place, in 2011) and it was such a phenomenal experience as an athlete to be involved in a huge event. To host it is a once-in-lifetime opportunity for me so I’m going soak up every moment.”
Eventually, Page knows her joyride with international volleyball will come to an end. She is committed to helping Canada qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Following that, she has a pretty decent exit strategy. With a degree in children’s studies, she may pursue early childhood education. She also has a background in special event planning, so her options are wide open.
“At this point, I’m just looking forward to unpacking my suitcase somewhere I can call home for more than six months at a time,” said Page. “This career can be daunting – we train excessively, leave loved ones for weeks and months at a time and start over in a new country every pro season.
“I’m open to what life throws at me after volleyball. I guess if I’ve learned anything from this lifestyle it’s to jump in with two feet and enjoy the journey.”