Spencer Purdie is the first to tell you he wasn’t all that excited about playing volleyball when he first got into it.
“I really didn’t get into it until I was in Grade 9,” said the six-foot-eight Lindsay Thurber Raiders star middle blocker. “I did start in Grade 7 (at Central) but wasn’t fond of it although in Grade 8 I had a good coach (Tanner Rehn) in club volleyball and he opened my eyes a bit.”
But it was under the direction of Kevin Tennant in Grade 9 at LTCHS that he really started on the path that led him to committing to play next season at the University of Saskatchewan.
“Even after Grade 8 I was still a little iffy but in Grade 9 I had a great coach and I was asked to play for the Winter Games team after our (school) season and that was super cool. I figured I may have a future in it and would keep playing.”
The 17-year-old, who lives on a farm east of Delburne, added that his Grade 9 season was make or break for him.
That’s where Tennant stepped in.
“He opened up that volleyball was an option for me. He was a not only a phenomenal coach but a great guy with great energy. He kept pushing me to do my best and has always been by my side.”
Spencer has been fortunate to have been under the direction of outstanding coaches capped by high school mentor Terence McMullen.
“I have to admit when I was in Grade 9 and started Grade 10 he (McMullen) was the scariest teacher,” Spencer added with a laugh. “He was this big time coach with a big time resume which was a bit intimidating.”
But once he was on the Raiders that changed. He has nothing but praise for his coaches.
“They are so personable, down to earth people who you can have a conversation with. Not just as a coach but a friend.”
Spencer has played middle since Grade 8 as he continued to grow.
“In Grade 8 I was about five-foot-10 and in Grade 10 around six-foot-two.”
By Grade 11 he was up to six-foot-six.
It was that growth spurt that hurt his first love — baseball.
I was really into baseball and as a youngster wanted to play in the MLB,” he said. “But with my growth spurt my coordination was affected a bit and I couldn’t hit the next year. My dad (Rod) urged me to look at something different.”
But his height certainly was a factor in his recruitment, along with his talent.
“It helped,” said Purdie, who admits losing playing time this season did hurt.
Spencer says as a player he tries to provide energy on the floor and be loud when he can.
“I’m not the quickest but McMullen has been working with me helping with my speed and reading the play at the net. I feel I’m a decent presence offensively with blocking needing some work.
“That’s where losing this season hurt. You need the game time to smooth out the edges.”
But U of S head coach Sean McKay knows all about Spencer having coached him during one of his two seasons with the Team Alberta U16 program.
“He texted me on my birthday last year to wish me a happy birthday and asked if they were an option. He asked if I would keep them in mind and keep my door open … keep them on the radar.
“I liked Sean as a coach with the provincial team … we had a good connection. I liked his style of play.”
He also liked the fact he’ll likely get a chance to play his first season.
“He said there’s a good chance I may play a bit and work toward being ready for my second year. It’s a big step but I’m willing to learn.”
Spencer did have other offers such as RDC.
“RDC was definitely an option, but I’d like to get away from home and be on my own,” he said. “Saskatchewan is close enough where I can come home on a weekend if we’re not playing.”
In the classroom Spencer will work on a Bachelor of Science degree with emphasis on agribusiness.
“I grew up on a farm and wanted to go in that direction,” he said.
The Purdie family farm celebrated it’s 125th anniversary this year.
The family has also a strong musical presence as Spencer’s brother, Matthew, is “phenomenal on the piano” while his mother Jodie “is a phenomenal singer.
“I’m the sports guy in the family,” Spencer said with a laugh. “I’ve never really been into playing an instrument. I’m more like my dad, who played basketball in school.”
Spencer is back in school this week and may get a chance to work on some aspects of his game as “it’s basically the same as before although a few more restrictions.
“But it’s good to be back to be with your friends and it’s a lot better than taking classes virtually.
“When you’re at home there are so many distractions … you can look out your window and see a butterfly,” he said showing his sense of humour.
As for volleyball the club season has a chance of going this year.
“I know there’s talk that way. I hope so as it would be great to get some reps in before next season.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com