Shannon Dean smacks the volleyball over the net and blows it by the opponent on the shiny, glossy, gym surface. A female referee points to Dean and her five teammates in their green, white and yellow home uniforms. All six players on the court jump into each other’s arms, smiling from cheek to cheek after they score the hard earned point. The public announcer calls her name. Shannon Dean. Supporters in the audience erupt in approval. They clap. They scream.
“I take the most pride in my competitive edge. Being under pressure situations and thriving off the intensity makes me the player I am,” says Dean. Like many athletes of her calibre, Shannon Dean has worked hard to get where she is. Her journey has included coaches, family and teammates.
When Dean was in grade ten she met Lucas Hodgson, head coach of the Windsor University Lancers. This was the catalyst for her to become a university athlete and four-time Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star.
Hodgson continued to watch Dean’s progress throughout her high school years and her performances with the Durham Attack before offering her a place with the Windsor Lancers.
“She’s a great kid,” says Hodgson. “Her athleticism makes a big difference when she’s on the court.”
Dean went on to make the playoffs in two out of her four seasons at Windsor. She became an all-star in every season she played and won the highly sought after Demarco Award presented to the best male and female athlete yearly at Windsor University who best combines academics and athletics after the 2015-2016 campaign.
Coach Hodgson described Dean as a hard worker and skilled athlete. He put her in the middle position where she led the Lancers in kills and assists last season. However, Hodgson said she was worth more than just the statistics.
“Shannon is a very special athlete,” says Hodgson. “She had no issues off the court academically so it made our jobs easier, she was worth a lot to us.”
A stable life off the court made Dean the player she is today. Her parents, John and Heather, travelled 836 kilometers roundtrip from Whitby to Windsor to watch their radiant daughter play in every home game.
“They’re my biggest fans. Throughout my four years at Windsor they didn’t miss one home game. Their weekends consisted of driving to and from my games,” says Dean.
Dedicated and driven to excel is what John calls his daughter.
“When she was making a decision on school choices, I made the promise to her that I wouldn’t miss a single game,” says John Dean. “We didn’t end up missing one.”
Now 22, and a graduate from a double major program in Communication, Media and Film along with psychology, Dean was not sure if she would play volleyball this year as it is her fifth and final year of eligibility. But, thanks to her parents, who after back and forth conversations, convinced her to come to Durham, Dean is now a member of the Durham Lords. She is also enrolled in the Addictions and Mental Health (Graduate Certificate) program.
“I wasn’t going to do my fifth year. When I told them about Durham they were really excited, especially my dad because he went to Durham,” says Dean.
Dean has already made her mark on her new team. She has brought a competitive edge and drive to play under pressure. Returning players Megan Romain and Lucia Kalmeyer speak very highly of the fifth-year senior.
“Shannon has the most amazing leadership skills I’ve ever seen. She’s my inspiration to be a better player,” says Romain.
Kalmeyer shares the same thoughts. “She’s good at motivating us when were down. We can always count on her to get us back in the game,” says Kalmeyer.
Dean has not only drawn high praise from her former coach, but also her current coach, Tony Clarke. “The versatility she has with volleyball along with her experience is a great gift to our program,” says Clarke.
The journey for Dean will conclude in February next year. But, before she hits that last serve, Dean shared some light on how she wants to be thought of with her last group of teammates. “I want to be dependable, and for my team to feel they can look up to me as a leader.”