Wilkins in Denmark, signs first professional contract
It may have taken longer than she would have liked, but Gambo’s Sasha Wilkins can now call herself a professional volleyball player.
© Photo courtesy of Vivian Grønfeldt
After she was left off Canada’s national A team roster over the summer, Wilkins was able to get in touch with a pro volleyball agency in Germany. Before she knew it, she was putting ink on her first-ever professional volleyball contract with Division 1 team Holte IF of Denmark Volleyliga.
However, the entire process wasn’t exactly stress-free.
“Being part of the Canadian women's national team program definitely helped me land my pro contract in Denmark. Once I finished up with the national team in early May, I got in contact with a pro volleyball agency based in Germany. A couple of the women national team athletes work with this agency and helped me get in contact with them,” said Wilkins. “They agreed to work for me and luckily I signed a pro contract in Denmark. The process isn't an easy one and it can be quite stressful. One minute a team is interested in you and another minute they have another player signed. You honestly have to be relaxed and patient about the whole process.”
As of last Wednesday, Wilkins had been in Denmark for five weeks and played in 16 pre-season games with Holte IF. Of those 16 pre-season games, Wilkins and her team lost just two games.
She said the competition has been great so far, but the regular season is eight months long, so the level of play is only going to get higher, which means the team will have to continue getting better if it wants to stay competitive.
“We have played teams from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The competition thus far has been great and if I had to compare it to my past playing experiences, I would say competition is at the higher end of the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) level,” said Wilkins. “I'm sure we will meet a few weaker teams, but for the most part the level is higher than what I've experienced in my university career. I've found the transition from the national program to here very smooth. It isn't quite at the national team level I experienced back in Canada, but the program is run very similar.
“Including preseason, we play approximately 50-60 games a season. I'm expecting the level of play and competition to get even higher as the year goes on. You have to improve as a team when you're playing that many games during the year. We've already improved a lot in the last five weeks. I'm really looking forward to how we will be playing come playoffs. Our coach is also the women's Danish national team coach so he runs our team the same way he would the national team.”
Wilkins, a former star with the Memorial University Sea-Hawks, is one of three foreigners on the team. One foreigner is from Iceland and the starting setter is a Canadian from Pinticton, B.C. The team is hoping to have a third Canadian on the team, a middle hitter from B.C. who’ll be in her third year if she returns after Christmas.
Riding your bicycle everywhere is a very Danish thing to do.” Sasha Wilkins
As for Wilkins, she’s a starting left-side hitter for her team, who’ll also get plenty of work on defence.
“My coach is putting a lot of pressure on me to serve-receive and play well defensively, which is great for me after training in the libero position,” said Wilkins. “He can also be quite tough on me at times but he expects a lot out of his older players and it is exactly what I need to grow as a player and a person. I've already learned a lot from him in these short five weeks so I'm looking forward to the player I’ll grow into.”
Off the court, Wilkins is quickly adjusting to living life in Copenhagen, which is a 40-minute train ride from the team gym in Holte. It’s her first time in Denmark, and she said she absolutely loves the experience.
“The people are so friendly and I've been adjusting to the Danish lifestyle very well. Riding your bicycle everywhere is a very Danish thing to do. I finally got my bicycle last week,” said Wilkins. “I've met many friends so far from Denmark (or those that have been living in Denmark for a few years) that have really taken the time to help me with the basics and show me around.
“I am definitely not fluent in Danish. I know how to call volleyball plays in Danish and to say thank-you (tak). Once I get my residency in a couple of weeks, I can take free Danish lessons here in Copenhagen. There isn't really a language barrier. Most everyone here can speak English.”
Wilkins is only 26, but has seen her fair share of ups and downs. She’s competed for both competitive and rebuilding MUN teams, she’s had to stay away from the court due to various injuries and illnesses, and she’s also felt the bitter taste of being left off a national team roster following years of preparation. Through it all, she stayed positive and committed, and urges other provincial volleyball players to do the same.
“I've learned that you have to believe in yourself. You're the only one that can control how you look at a situation, and how you feel about yourself and your abilities. You can't be afraid to fail. Failures happen all the time, you just have to learn from them. If you don't try, you'll never know,” said Wilkins. “My career has been a journey of ups and downs but knowing the good moments has outweighed the bad. It’s all worth it. I'm doing what I love most and I'm happy. As an athlete, you have to enjoy the full ride. There's no better feeling than playing in front of a packed gym, no matter where you are.”
Volleyball fans can catch Wilkins and her team play home games by visiting