Canadian Olympian Rudy Verhoeff is of the opinion that volleyball has a lot of potential in India and there is some amazing talent in the country as far as the sport is concerned. He also praised the standard of the inaugural edition of Pro Volleyball saying that it had an international impact.
The inaugural edition of Pro Volleyball concluded on Friday in Chennai with home team Chennai Spartans beating one of the strongest sides of the league – Calicut Heroes in straight sets of 15-11, 15-12, 16-14 to lift the trophy. The Nehru Indoor Stadium was packed to the rafters with most of them being the supporters of the home side. Even the away fans from Kozhikode, Kerala, travelled around 700 km to witness the game live at the venue. Before beating Calicut in the final, the Chennai-based franchise got the better of another Kerala team – Kochi Blue Spikers – in a thrilling game. Around 4000 fans witnessed that game and Kochi player David Lee even pointed out that the huge crowd support had a big impact on the result which went in Chennai’s favour.
Such has been the impact of the league in its inaugural season that even Chennai’s Canadian recruit Verhoeff praised the attendance in the stands during the league and was delighted to have the crowd as the seventh man of the team.
“The crowd was amazing both in Kochi and here in Chennai. It’s evident that the Indian people enjoy sports and some of the most passionate fans are found here. The atmosphere in the stadium isn’t matched in too many other places in the world. Obviously, they loved our performance especially when we won,” Verhoeff told SportsCafe.
The inaugural edition of the volleyball league kicked off on February 2 and continued for 20 days with the final match being played on last Friday. Volleyball joined the bandwagon of many sporting leagues of India like Indian Premier League (IPL) and Indian Super League (ISL) and was well-received by the fans in the South Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu where the game is quite popular. The matches were also watched in many parts of the world with reputed foreign players playing in the league.
When asked to draw parallels with other Indian sporting leagues, the Olympian replied, “Don’t know so much about IPL or ISL leagues but definitely Pro Volleyball has made a mark in the international scene. All my friends are watching and commentating on how amazing the crowd is. The level of volleyball, nobody knew what the level of volleyball is here in India. Now, a lot of international players will like to come here to play. It is definitely making a big impact around the world.”
Verhoeff, who plays as a blocker, took up the role of a spiker in the Spartans team as captain Shelton Moses and India international Akhin GS were a part of the champion team. Rudy played alongside both of them and veteran Kapil Dev in the team and against many of the top Indian players in other teams of the league.
“I think there is some amazing talent here in India. Obviously, quite a few Indian players who can play internationally. I can say that the difference between top-level international players and top-level Indian players is that the top-level international players are more consistent. I think there are some easy mistakes that happen here because of different reasons. But I say the consistency of top-level international players is higher than some of the Indian players. Overall, I was surprised to see that the level was high as it was. Now, they can now compare themselves not just to the Indian players but to players from around the world because when you just compare to people around, you miss a broader range of people and know what the next level is," the 29-year-old explained.
Verhoeff was awarded the Best Spiker of the tournament for his amazing show in the league where he secured the most points in the tournament. The Canadian had 88 spike and 106 total points in the league taking the top positions on both the lists. He also played a crucial role in the final against Calicut by scoring 13 points in one game. He was also instrumental in Chennai’s qualification into the next round in their league match against Ahmedabad Defenders by scoring 20 points.
“Overall, I had a pretty successful tournament. My team had trust in me in important situations and I have been able to deliver most of the time. So, I am happy to contribute to the team. Yeah, that will be fantastic (on playing in the next season). Of course, there are a lot of things to go for a decision like that but I have been really well received here in Chennai, in the Spartans team and by Baseline and the Indian volleyball federation. I would want to come back and play here again,” said a delighted Verhoeff.
“It’s been a fun experience of playing in front of such big crowd and such passionate people. I loved the hospitality that the Indian people have offered to me. So, I am taking back a lot of positive memories and that is really great.”
Verhoeff was one of the experienced players in the entire league and his inputs were helpful in Chennai’s win in the league. He also shared his way of getting prepared for a crucial game and strategies to remain physically and mentally fit while playing professional volleyball.
“It is important to study the opponents. Watching a lot of videos and doing statistics is important in a game of volleyball. I have my own way to prepare both mentally and physically that starts not just the day of the match or the day before. It’s a long process. I think physically, you have to have a plan and it is not just random.
“You are working towards something, so obviously fitness is crucial. Mentally, we do some meditation and we were lucky to have a yoga instructor here in Chennai and that’s been fantastic for me to refocus my brain and mentally prepare for everything that’s coming. Volleyball is such a mental game and the state of mind is one of the most important things,” Verhoeff concluded.
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