Raised in the small Northern Ontario community of Echo Bay, Stephanie Walker made it a point to try just about every sport imaginable. An only child, she threw herself into the activities easily accessible through her elementary school � basketball, cross country, track & field and volleyball.
Beyond the school system, she continued to explore, trying swimming, gymnastics and figure skating. But it wasn�t until Grade 9 at Central Algoma Secondary School that Walker really found her niche.
�When I hit high school, I realized that volleyball was my best sport out of all of them�, she noted in an interview after completing her first year with the Golden Shield. Blessed with size and an ability to pound the ball, Walker love to swing � as hard as humanly possible.
�I can hit a ball pretty hard�, she laughs. �In public school, the gyms were small and I would always hit the back wall.� Currently studying Fitness and Leisure Management at Cambrian College, Walker pulls no punches in acknowledging that the volleyball program here played a huge role in her choice of post secondary institutions.
�I based my entire college choice on volleyball�, she says. Still, the tough part lie ahead. Transforming the raw talent that Walker possessed, combining it with her determination and commitment to getting better, Cambrian coaches Dale Beausoleil and Mike Margarit quickly realized they had the makings of an unpolished gem.
�Mike and Dale are amazing coaches � they have made me a way better player�, notes Walker. �There was a huge difference between the beginning and the end of my first year�I�m 100 times better.�
Dedicated to really learning about the sport, Walker showed progress in leaps and bounds. �When I was in high school, I was a middle and I hit middle balls. Now I�m doing �quicks� and �shoots� and things that I did not know anything about�, she explains.
Even more encouraging from a coach�s perspective, Stephanie Walker strives to always get better. Her rookie season was no sooner completed that she had her mind set on the improvements needed in year two.
�I want to play back row. I know I won�t start the year playing back row, but as I work on my skills, I�m hoping he (coach Beausoleil) will let me rotate through the back row�, emphasizes Walker.
And while she will absolutely continue to support her teammates, even when she is �subbed out�, there is a very good reason that Walker wants to stay in. �Cheering is good, but playing is even better.�