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Stephen Brown: Getting back in the swing of things
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Many young athletes found themselves sidelined these past few years as the effects of Covid-19 were felt right across the globe. Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School graduate and Cambrian College power hitter Stephen Brown just took it a little bit further.

Returning to the court, as a player, for the first time since 2015, the now 28 year old millwright student led the Golden Shield to their first playoff appearance in more than a decade, dropping a tough quarter-final battle to the Sheridan Bruins in four highly competitive sets.

Thankfully, for his sake, Brown did not have to wander far to find his way back to his role as a dominant attacker. “I’ve coached with Dale (Cambrian head coach Dale Beausoleil) the past five years, so I’ve always been around and still practiced with the team, the odd time, when they needed an extra person.”

“But to actually be playing four to five times a week and also doing strength training on the side, well, I haven’t done that in a while. My body was a little sore for a few weeks.”

Given that he has remained so close to the game where he enjoyed much success during his high-school tenure with the Knights, Brown was able to build on some natural physical maturity, finding himself impacting games even more than he did in his first go-around at the college nearly a decade ago.

“I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, just from being a little bit older and wiser and knowing how to do things properly,” suggested the 6’ 3 1/2” left side hitter. “The hardest part is getting the passing and serving reps in. I was still struggling with that in some games, just because we haven’t really had the reps to get through it.”

“Growing up, I was always a skinnier kid. Now being able to have more strength behind the ball is nice, and your body is able to handle things a little more, I’m not getting as injured as I was in the past.”

If time away from playing may have forced Brown to play a little catch-up, physically speaking, his time sitting courtside with Beausoleil, clipboard in hand, was clearly not wasted. “It was beneficial to do that, just because you’re able to see the game from a different perspective,” he stated.

“You’re able to understand what the coach is trying to say a lot easier. You’re able to pick up more on things that opponents are doing, tendencies, whereas before, I just kind of went up and hit the ball.”

For the most part, much of the way in which Brown remembered the OCAA game, circa-2015, has remained constant. The biggest change might well lie in the equipment. “The new ball has changed the game a little bit,” he said, alluding to the switch from the old Mikasa (yellow and blue) ball to the Baiden (green/white/red) now currently in use.

“A lot more people are now spin serving as opposed to float serving. The ball now has a faster pace and doesn’t float as much.”

Exactly how dramatic was the change experienced by Brown and the Shield this year?

A 4-5 regular season mark might not look that impressive until one considers that it’s been nine years since Cambrian reached that win total, with each of those seasons featuring no less than twenty matches. The team finished with two wins or less in each of the last five years.

“I think, for the most part, that we’ve definitely improved every game, which was the main thing that we wanted to do,” said Brown.

And while he would dearly love to coax just one more season of play through a busy schedule, Brown will be fine if this is his final chapter. “When I was in school the first time, I knew that I was going to play somewhere,” he said. “When I closed it in 2015, I didn’t think I would ever play competitively again.”

“This year, I’m just very grateful that I was able to play. Even with Covid, we were still able to get a half season in – and I would much rather have half a season than no season at all.”

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