Winning is keeping the eye on the ball

Q&A with Quinn Pelland, Pro Volleyball Athlete

Winning is keeping the eye on the ball
Quinn Pelland has inked a professional contract to play with Pays d’Aix in Venelles, France.

For Quinn Pelland, winning is the sum of its parts – it’s about taking an extra rep in the weight room, it’s about setting the benchmark of excellence higher and even higher, it’s about forging off-the-court relationships with teammates, it’s about having a disdain for losing, it’s about the love of winning itself. That’s what she meant when asked to share a word of advice for aspiring athletes trying to carve a path of success for themselves in their chosen sport: “think about the big picture,” she says, the big picture being the goal of winning.

“I really love to win, and I hate to lose,” she told The Central Peace Signal. Of course, Pelland did her share of winning. She steered the Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars women’s volleyball team as its captain, helping it to a historic silver-medal finish in the U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship in March 2022. She also landed a spot on the Canadian national women’s volleyball team with overseas travels on away games to Hong Kong; Bangkok, Thailand; Puerto Rico; Quebec City; Suwon, South Korea; and, for the Olympic qualifiers, Ningbo, China.

And in yet another landmark win, she recently signed a professional contract to play for Pays d’Aix-Venelles, a ball club based in Venelles, France.

What are some of the priorities in your life right now?
Family and friends are always No. 1 for me. Volleyball is second – it’s a big piece in my life right now. My physical health is another priority for me – making sure I’m taking care of my body and getting enough sleep. I’m also trying to develop new skills, so while I’m away at pro, I’m going to do some online training courses on, say, drawing and creative art; as you know, it’s easy to fall off the wagon and become stagnant.

Winning is keeping the eye on the ball
Quinn Pelland

What are some of your immediate goals – say, in the next few months or the next year?
I really want to get a lot stronger, so over the next few months my focus is on my physical strength and health. I also really want to put a lot of time into my mental performance – things like the mental fortitude to handle stress and a relentless belief in myself. I have a mental-performance coach with the national team, so I’m hoping to meet with him often and work on that area of my game. I think that’s an important piece in professional sport. For me, it’s an ongoing process, and is probably the biggest part of my game, or anyone’s game. So, these are two areas I have control over I would like to develop.

What have you learned about teamwork from years of playing in a team sport like volleyball?
Fortunately, I never had a teammate with whom I didn’t enjoy being around. And it’s so important because our relationships off the court can influence how well we perform on the court. We invest time to form relationships. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that, at the end of the day, relationships are what you will remember in the long run. The bad days will come; but, as long as you have the people you love around you, it makes the next day easier.

Is there a coach or an athlete you look up to as a role model?
I definitely look up to a lot of the women on my team. The ones who have been there for a long time have so much experience – they have so much to give and they are so open and helpful. They are not only my role models; they are also my friends. I’d like to single out Brie King, our starting setter on the Canadian national team. She has so much great experience, but she never acts like she’s above me. I can go to her for anything – she’s so down-to-earth and supportive.

What do you think made you a great athlete?
I would say I’m very disciplined, and I try to always take an extra mile – whenever there is the option, I show up for extra reps on court. I’m never ever satisfied with how my game is, so I keep pushing myself to continue to work really hard. I also try to develop good habits so that I stay the course for the things I’m expected to do both on my good days as well as off days. So, I make it a habit of, say, lifting weights, making it as my “normal” whether I feel like doing it or not. I also try to develop a habit of eating well – not to say that I don’t treat myself sometimes. But eating healthy is my normal. Also, I really am a huge competitor. I really love to win, and I hate to lose. So, all those things have brought me to where I am today.

What were some of your successes in your volleyball career that you consider most special?
Our national silver medal with the MRU Cougars women’s volleyball team, to me, was one of the biggest highlights in my volleyball career. When I first went to MRU, we were barely making playoffs and then by my fifth year we medaled for the first time in MRU history, and athletics was the first medal in U SPORTS. That was in 2022. And then making the senior team with my first year with the national team was really significant as well.

Do you have teams or teammates that have helped to make you a better player?
I really fell in love with the game during my time with MRU. I had a really good group of teammates, and they just made going to practice and playing really fun. I think that accounts for the biggest part of my decision to go ahead and play professional volleyball. I was just really loving the game. And, mind you, this is really hard to do if you don’t love it – it’s a lot of work and comes with a lot of emotional and mental pressure. So, I’m just really loving it – having a group of women that really inspired me and made sure that showing up was really fun. And it’s the same thing in my current pro team. I’ve just met the best people, and I’m excited about my next journey. I know I will meet a lot of people from all over the world, and those relationships will mean so much to me.

What have been some of your challenges as an athlete?
The hardest part, and I think it applies to a lot of professional athletes, is missing home – not getting any time off to see your family. We train every day with the Canadian national team until the end of our season at end-September, and then I have three days at home before I go and play pro in France for the next eight months. So, there isn’t much time off. You don’t get to have sick days. You are expected to show up every single day. And it can get lonely – you will really miss your people. But, to me, it’s about finding your people where you’re at. If you don’t have that, then it’s really difficult.

What do you think is the most important quality for success as a professional athlete?
I think the ability to be independent and spend a lot of time with yourself and be okay with that is important. I’ve heard from others who said it’s really lonely – and requires a lot of change – when you play on a team with people who don’t speak English. And just as important is having a mindset that not every day is going to be great. Some days are going to be awesome, and some days are going to be really, really hard. So, having the tenacity to ride the wave and just enjoy what you’re doing is really important.

How do you keep yourself motivated?
As I said, I’m never satisfied with where I’m at, and that keeps me motivated. What motivates me is my next benchmark for where I need to get to? I challenge myself: What physically do I need to get better at? What is the level at which I should be performing every single day? I love the game. I love watching players who are better than me and studying the parts of their game I can put into my own. My goal is to be as unique a player in my position as possible as I am as an individual.

What advice would you give to aspiring athletes who are trying to carve a path of success for themselves in their chosen sport?
Do not take yourself too seriously and think about the big picture. Do not try to be perfect; rather, accept failure because you can never get anywhere without making a lot of mistakes. Be always ready to work a little bit more, and be the hardest working person in the gym. Always be the person who makes the choice to do the hard thing and do the thing someone else doesn’t want to do. Then it becomes a habit, and you will be noticed for that.

What has helped you the most to get to where you are right now?
I’m getting a little emotional, but I would say my family and my community. I just have so many people around me always cheering me on and who really just want me to do well. And I feel it from home all the time; it really makes me proud to be from a small town. I just feel like I’m doing it for a lot of people, and it just couldn’t mean more to have everyone at home being there for me, watching and tuning in and sending messages; it just means so much.

About Quinn Pelland

  • Born on May 11, 1999 and raised in Wanham
  • Parents: Dave and Stacey Pelland
  • Elementary-High School: Rycroft School and Spirit River Regional Academy
  • Turned Pro: 2023
  • Pro Team: Pays d’Aix-Venelles (Venelles, France)
  • Post-Secondary: Mouth Royal University (Honours Bachelor of Business Administration with a Major in Human Resources)