by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
It is outside the village of Linden, Alberta that Taylor Klassen learned his "work ethic."
Spending "eight-to-12 hours a day during the summer" working on his parents – Mike and Rosalind Klassen – Broiler breeder chicken farm, "taught me the work ethic to where I am today in sport and in school. The farm boy mentality of grinding it out."
Now, instead of "helping out picking eggs or walking through the barns and helping catch chickens," Klassen, 22, is an elite student/athlete with the Briercrest College men's volleyball team playing in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
An all-around high school athlete for the Acme High School Redman in Acme, Alberta, Klassen said his sport of choice was "soccer until Grade 10."
It was in Grade 10, moving up from Dr. Elliott Community School in nearby Linden, that Klassen "fell in love with volleyball."
He continues: "I started playing volleyball in Grade 7 but also was playing basketball, hockey and soccer. I had a coach (Murray Huddle) in Grade 10 that really believed in me and that pushed me to pursue it (volleyball) more. I had made the senior team and it was due to his encouragement that I started to concentrate on the sport."
With Alberta Schools Athletic Association 1A Provincial Volleyball titles during his Grade 10 and Grade 11 years, Klassen was named a Zone All Star in Grade 12.
"At that point, I was pretty undersized," said Klassen, who is listed at 6-foot-3 on the ACAC roster although he states he is closer to 6-foot-1. "I was not an attractive pick for many coaches for my position (outside hitter) but there were a few interested in the ACAC."
Instead of staying close to home, Klassen headed west to suit up for the Columbia Bible College (CBC) Bearcats in Abbotsford, British Columbia playing out of the Pacific Western Athletic Association.
During his two seasons at CBC, the Bearcats would advance to the 2014 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association men's volleyball nationals which were hosted by Briercrest College.
The Bearcats would finish fourth, falling to Humber College Hawks. The gold medal would go to ACAC Red Deer Kings beating the host Briercrest team 25-20, 25-19, 25-18.
"I had to find my place and a spot on the team as I was more of a defensive minded outside," recalls Klassen, of his rookie season in the PACWEST. "I worked hard on my passing and defense and being a more mentally tough player. I had to earn respect. "
Named team captain his second season, Klassen, who has an approach vertical of 41-inches (1.0414 metre) with an 11-foot-5 (3.505 metre) touch reach, battled through shoulder and knee injuries.
"Being my size I have to be a physical player, otherwise I am not effective. I have to maintain my body really well since my style is physical. I learned how to do that better."
His then girlfriend, and now fiancée Courtney, moving back to Saskatoon, was one of the factors for Klassen enrolling at Briercrest College in Caronport, Saskatchewan in 2016.
"I wasn't also content with what I was learning at CBC. I also wanted to be part of a program that has a chance and potential to be a legitimate contender."
Klassen was named a 2015-2016 ACAC South Team All-Conference, leading the ACAC South in kills per set 3.09 (294), second in digs per set 2.31 (219) and fourth in service aces per set 0.39 (36). Briercrest missed the playoffs with a regular season 11-13 performance.
Last year he played in only 12 matches with Briercrest finishing 13-11, advancing to the championships held in Red Deer where they placed fifth losing to the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves 21-25, 25-19, 17-25, 25-19, 15-10.
At age 22, Klassen said he has matured since leaving high school in that, "Having the bible college experience has been pretty awesome. It has caused me to grow in my faith and ask some tough questions about my faith and the world around me.
"It has helped me generally with my relationship to people on the planet. I have learned to be kind to everyone I come in contact with and that is an important part of why I am here."
Briercrest men's volleyball currently have a 9 matches won 5 matches lost record and Klassen, who is enrolled in Psychology, is second in ACAC service aces per set (0.63) and fifth in kills per set (3.26).
Not bad for a kid who had to clean up, chase and pick eggs from up to 24,000 chickens not that long ago.