By Eric Thompson
One year ago, Phil Yeldon sat across the table from Alwyn Piche as he was announced as the CCAA men’s volleyball player of the year. After seeing the ring Piche was presented, Yeldon turned to his dad and said, “I want that ring.”
A year later, Yeldon accomplished that goal, becoming the first player in the history of the Thunder volleyball program to win the prestigious award.
“It means a lot, I never really believed that I could win,” said Yeldon. “It just proves that hard work pays off. Even after getting the award I couldn’t believe it until a few days later that I was actually known as the best college player in Canada. It’s pretty crazy.”
Yeldon had a career year for the Thunder, leading the OCAA in points and finishing second in kills and aces, as the Thunder finished on top of the East with a 17-1 record.
“He’s put in two extraordinary years for men’s volleyball,” said athletic director Ron Port. “He is probably the most celebrated men’s volleyball player we’ve had, certainly in my tenure, which runs 48 years.”
Last season Yeldon was named OCAA player of the year. When the time came for a banner to be raised in the Athletic Centre, Yeldon requested that only his last name be displayed.
“I wanted just the last name up there to show my appreciation to all the Yeldons. All my family packs the stands here for every game, cheering me on. All the road trips and everything they’ve come on, I was able to let them know that I achieved what I did with their help. That was pretty special when I showed them that, I was able to tell them thank you for everything.”
His family also helped provide him with solid athletic genes. His father Scott played basketball at Algonquin, before playing in the CFL with the Ottawa Roughriders. His mother Louise was a figure skater with the Minto Skating Club of Ottawa.
Yeldon spent his first three years of college at Cégep Limoilou, where he won a national championship in 2010. After his program ended, he chose to come to Algonquin for the fitness and health promotion program.
Here he was reunited with his former coach Jay Mooney.
“I was thinking of coming here to coach, and when I found out he was coming, I think it made both our decisions easier,” said Mooney.
Mooney coached Yeldon with the U18 Mavericks Volleyball Club, a group that went on to win nationals in 2009.
“He restores a coach’s faith in teaching fundamentals,” said Mooney. “How hard he worked on the basic drills. It’s a testament to be able to show my youth’s him as an example, so they can develop an appreciation of hard work.”
As for Yeldon’s career beyond Algonquin, he plans on taking a year off to work giving him some much needed time away from the game.
“I’ve been playing volleyball competitively since grade nine, and it’s put a strain on my body that most people don’t have,” said Yeldon. “My knees are shot, shoulders are sore, the season has been done for a month and I just recently began walking up stairs without pain. It’s all been worth it, but I am going to take a break next year.”
Yeldon should have an opportunity to pursue a professional career in Europe, where the sport has a much larger following. No matter what he chooses, Mooney says he has a future in the sport.
“I hope he gives back to the game in the form of coaching. He figured out something most never will. It’s a powerful tool figuring out (how to have success) firsthand. He can instill these lessons with young kids about how to work hard and work smart. Having coaches do that helps the sport in Canada.”