Varsity Reds athlete Curtis Wackett made the transition from the sand of track and field to the hardwood for this AUS season. Most athletes find difficulty in transitioning between sports at an elite level, but Wackett is not most athletes.
The third-year Renaissance College student began his athletic career long before attending UNB and competing with the Varsity Reds. Athletic based Bill Crothers Secondary School in Markham, Ontario, served as the home for Wackett while he developed his skills in both track and field and volleyball.
Wackett was a decorated athlete, competing in club track for Team Ontario in addition to club and high school volleyball teams that led him to winning the ‘AAAA’ Ontario Federation of School Athletics Associations championship title in his senior year.
However, Wackett met complications on the path into his first year of university.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” said Wackett. “I was recruited to play volleyball, but then I really liked track, and I was also trying to focus on academics. So I found UNB; I found the track team and went from there.”
After a volleyball injury in his final year of high school set him back in track and field, Wackett was looking to return to the sport that he missed.
“I originally thought that track was the way to go,” said Wackett. “I loved track growing up, and I actually had to take my senior year of high school off from track because of a volleyball injury. I was really looking forward to getting back into track.”
In the first meet of his first year at UNB in 2015, Wackett set the school record for triple jump at 12 metres and 89 centimeters, shattering the previous record by eight centimetres. Following this, he won the Canadian Junior National title in the same event. Despite this success, Wackett was still unsure of his future.
“It was great, but being fully into track made me realize how much I missed playing volleyball,” said Wackett. “It wasn’t until my second year, halfway through, when I was dealing with some injuries from track and field that I realized how much I missed playing volleyball and decided that the next year and third year I [was] going to actually try and see if I [could] go back to playing volleyball full-time.”
After making his decision to transition back to the court, Wackett dedicated himself to his craft.
“Playing two sports…usually when people do it, they do it simultaneously,” said Wackett. “It’s a bit rare for people to take two years off and then go back into a sport that they haven’t played for two years. For me, the main thing that got me through was having the goal of ‘I wanted to achieve making the varsity team,’ and then actually executing that and playing volleyball everyday.”
“I would be in the gym at six in the morning and I would play for an hour before going to breakfast. Then I would play intramurals at night and kind of go from there.”
As for the social difference between the two, Wackett highlighted that training for an individual sport could not compare to training for a team sport.
“You can still have teammates as friends, but you wouldn’t necessarily rely on them,” he said. “Playing on the volleyball team now, the guys are like almost a family in a sense that we all rely on each other on the court and off the court.”
“With a team sport, there’s that family and team dynamic that you need to have to succeed. When I was doing an individual sport, like track, I was also competing against my teammates. You both want to succeed, but you both wanted to win. With volleyball, you’re also competing for on-court time, but regardless, at the end of the night if UNB wins, UNB wins and you’re happy for your teammates.”
In the future, Wackett hopes to continue with volleyball.
“Volleyball is kind of where my passion lies at,” he said. “It would be cool to do track continuously, but I really love the focus on team and just volleyball itself has been my favourite sport since I was a kid. [I] hope to continue playing next year and in the future years in the USport division—and if I do go to grad school, overseas for example, maybe try to play semi-professionally or locally, and just continue because I love the sport.”
Despite having his doubts the summer before making the team, Wackett continued to pursue his goal and kept trying.
“If there is anyone who is reading this, I would just recommend follow your heart and follow your goals, although it may seem like a daunting task,” he said. “During the summer, I didn’t think I would make the team—but I tried anyways. I tried out and I made it, and just because I had that dedication and determination to actually succeed, I managed to work hard everyday and make it.”
Submitted photo by Varsity Reds.