For Kelsey Veltman, a little healthy competition isn’t a bad thing.
“I’m so competitive. I was born competitive. Even in practice, I’m not happy if I’m not winning the smallest drill. My team is super competitive too – so that’s even better,” said the third-year King’s University College student and member of the Mustangs Women’s Volleyball team. “I just fell in love with volleyball and it’s something I can’t take lightly.”
For the third year in a row, the Brampton, Ont. native has seen her competitive spirit pay off. Recently named Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West Division Player of the Year for 2016-2017, Veltman has now captured the award in each of her three seasons in the conference, having also earned first team all-stars honours each year.
“It’s pretty cool, actually,” said Veltman of being named Player of the Year for a third time. “It’s definitely not something I was expecting for three years in a row. It was more surprising to win it again, than it would have been to not win it.”
Veltman graciously credits her teammates for helping her take the honours each year.
“It’s obviously something I can’t win without my team. Volleyball is a huge team sport. I can only touch the ball once or twice in a rally. It’s all those touches in between that help me do what I do, and for our team to get where we need to be. It’s pretty cool. I don’t feel like I’m just winning something – it’s a huge accomplishment for all of us. We’ve been growing since our first couple of years and it’s pretty cool to see it all happen,” she said.
Veltman, a 6’2” middle, led the conference and finished second overall behind Toronto’s Alina Dormann, the OUA East Division Player of the Year. Just 0.1 points separated the two.
The student-athlete, who is currently enrolled in Disability Studies at King’s, began playing volleyball when she was in Grade 5. She played on the Grade 6 team, since there wasn’t a team for younger students at her school at the time.
“I wasn’t very good then, so my parents put me in some clinics so I wouldn’t be an embarrassment,” she said, laughing. “The coaches at the clinics suggested I start playing club, so I started doing that, and ever since then, I fell in love with it,” Veltman said.
She was also playing hockey and lacrosse at the time, and ended up quitting both sports to dedicate more time to volleyball.
One of the biggest positives Veltman said she gets out of the student-athlete experience is building relationships with fellow players.
“I have so many different friends from so many different teams, and every team we play, there’s someone I know on it. Volleyball is such a small world. I also play beach volleyball and I get to travel a lot with that and see friends there, or at another tournament. I’ve met so many people through volleyball and we can create a bond over that. That’s probably the best part of the experience.”
Veltman is set to graduate in two years and hopes to play the sport professionally. A trip to Europe this past December opened her eyes to opportunities abroad.
“That was a really cool experience, just to go there and see what it’s like and see those countries. It got me more excited to graduate, but now I have to wait two more years,” she said.
“My coach played pro for a while, so she has a lot of connections. I told her I’m interested in playing pro after university, and with volleyball, it’s not the hardest thing to do. I’m not saying it’s not hard, but there are different divisions, so if you want to play pro, but are an average player, there’s still a division for you. Depending on your skill level, you can play pro. It’s something I personally really want to do.”
And Veltman has the chops, according to Melissa Barlett, the head coach of the Mustangs Women’s Volleyball team.
“Kelsey has been honoured in three consecutive seasons – this has never been achieved by a player in the past. For anyone who has the chance to see Kelsey play, it becomes immediately clear she is an elite athlete and her speed and athleticism puts her ahead of most in our conference,” Barlett said.
“She is so dominant both as an attacker and as a blocker – this is what sets her aside from other talented players who excel in only one of these areas. She brings to our team more than just point scoring – she is a fierce competitor, and asks a lot of herself and her teammates in training.”
Veltman was a member of both Team Ontario Indoor, winning a gold medal at the 2013 NTCC along with teammate Katherine Tsiofas, and a member of Team Ontario Beach in 2014. She played her prep volleyball career for the Eclipse Volleyball Club, and was a 2013 Ontario Provincial All-Star.