About "Me" - Jonny Pickett
So you might wonder how a small-town kid enters the volleyball world and suddenly starts pursuing the creation of a volleyball clothing brand. Well, let me back up a bit to the beginning. It all started in Wiarton, Ontario in 2001 when I entered this world with a bang. I have an older brother who loves individual sports and a younger brother who, like me, started out as a hockey player and soon realized that the skills we learned transferred to volleyball. Mr. Rutter and Mr. Harris ran a thing called “Smash Camp” in Owen Sound and we loved it. Hooked from a young age, we followed up with Coach Jason and Mr. Barry Mutrie at OVA Big Bruce developmental club in Chesley. Jason, a University of Western team alumnus, and Coach Barry are quite honestly, among the biggest Volleyball beauties I know. When they speak, everyone is turned into sponges who listen and soak up knowledge. I played for the Peninsula Shores District School Phoenix in Wiarton, and then “Ammo” started to come up with Momentum Pro Sports outreach clinics and some summer camps that helped us improve. He exposed us to a whole different world of volleyball and skill level brought in by some of the leaders in the province to help us. Like you, many of us also went to Camp Celtic and Madawaska and further fell in love with Volleyball.
When I started playing volleyball, I played for Big Bruce in grade 9 and I only played front row in the rotation and only played every other game. I quickly learned about what it meant to be on a team and that we all have an important role to play. That role, whatever form it takes, helps us improve. I had some big hitters on the opposing teams and was not ready yet for the hammers they were delivering.
To find playing time is always a challenge no matter where you live. Both my brother Danny and I come out of the mighty “Bluewater Ballistix Volleyball” program based out of Port Elgin, Bruce County, in what some call “kinda northern Ontario.” This club has Coach Steve, Tim and Al who give up much of their time to help kids compete and fall in love with the game. You may not think of Bruce County as a volleyball power, but the OUA /OCAA is starting to put us on their radar. Recently, the club has produced Danny (Windsor recruit), myself (Guelph), Dax (Queen’s), Nathan and Cam (Conestoga) and Rahul (RMC). In the past, Dave (Fanshawe legendary libero) and Mike “the wizard” all started their careers in Bruce and Grey Counties. There are probably others, but that is a pretty impressive group. All of these athletes made sacrifices, drove A LOT and worked hard to get a chance to play, based out of a very small club like many of you out there.
The transfer to beach volleyball was just another way for us to get in reps and hits. When you live in a small town you have to find a way to play whenever you can. In 2017 my first partner Luc and I started to play a lot of beach at Coach Steve’s backyard beach court and at Boston Pizza in Port Elgin. We ventured to some Ashbridge’s Bay tournaments, stopping at Super Burger on the way home after having our lunch already handed to us at the beach quite regularly at the start. We were learning and having fun. We were looking at a lot of beach legends and thinking, we can do this. We started to surprise a few teams once in a while.
It was at this point that I coordinated the construction of a court at our school. It was not easy, but I worked with our Leadership teacher Mr. Jones and got Matt Davis contracting to get sand, bought a net, lines, antennae and worked with the principal to make sure kids had access to a good court. There is now a court at the Lion’s Head school (BPDS) and we expect more to come.
Fast forward to the end of high school and I’m playing with Ben in the Under 21 Beach trials at Downsview, wearing my classic Nordiques shirt, and we won. I was on the 401 on the way home and remember thinking, “what just happened?” This led to a crazy journey to Thailand and 40-degree heat, to a partnership with Steve and membership on the OVA Senior training group with some great people. Yet, I encourage you to never forget where these stories all started. We know that it is different for everyone, whether you are from a small town or a big city. We are interested in hearing your stories of “It all starts here.”
In the end, the journey is just beginning. Like you, I am hoping to write a lot more chapters. I also know that every player (past, present and future) has a story. We come from big towns, small towns, different backgrounds and experiences and, more than anything, are united by the love of a game that starts on the 8 by 8 court that we share with one or more partners. Along the way, I have realized that there is a gap in the brands and apparel available for beach players. Everyone and all players want to wear something comfortable that reminds them of the fun times. The times when they won, suffered character losses, made new friends, won a medal, or just kicked back after a big scrimmage with buddies. All the while we know that you were wearing your favourite clothing that, for some reason, just makes the experience better. In time, we hope that we can add a piece to your “favourite clothing” you throw into your backpack for the beach or gym. In the meantime, we want to know your story. The coming months will see us unveil a few quality, reasonably priced items that you will be able to get to add to your collection.
Every item we sell in the future will put 20% of the revenue into a fund for granting volleyball nets, balls, antennae and lines to the places that don’t have what they need. It will all be driven by your support of our small-town apparel line, produced with the help of Koreen (@RAMSportsNorth) at RAM sports in Wiarton. Our partnerships will grow in time and we will unveil the first community projects to get support in August, once our first season in business unfolds.