Pereira’s dreams approaching reality
From an early age, Jordan Pereira knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
“As a kindergartener, I wrote down in my school journal that I wanted to be a professional athlete,” the 23-year-old St. Catharines resident said. “It goes hand and hand with my goals in volleyball.”
The Eden grad, who won two Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association golds and a silver playing for the Flyers, is nearing the moment when his dreams become reality.
“I signed with an agent a couple of months ago and I want to go overseas and play pro,” he said. “Hopefully I can get something, but if I am struggling to find a contract then I might go back (to McMaster).”
The Hamilton university is where the 6-foot-1 libero played for four seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic robbed him of his fifth season in 2020-21. He was looking to add to a resume that included two gold, one silver and one bronze Ontario University Athletics medals and a pair of bronze medals at the USPORTS championships.
But what could have been a massive disappointment turned into an opportunity for Pereira, who was on a list of 14 players that would have been considered Canada’s B team to its Olympic squad.
“When the season was cancelled, they decided to put together a training group for some guys on that list, some university guys and some of the guys on the junior list,” he said.
Eighteen players trained full-time in Gatineau, Que. from late August 2020 until March 21 of this year. Pereira made enough of an impression that he was invited back to Gatineau to train with the Olympic team as it prepares for the Tokyo Games.
“It has always been a goal of mine but I think things have happened a little faster because of not having a season this year,” he said. “There is a group of 17 or 18 of us and the roster hasn’t been announced but I’m hoping to be selected to go to Italy in a couple of weeks for VNL (Volleyball Nations League).”
The VNL is the only competition before the Olympics and out of 17 or 18 guys, 12 will be selected to go to the Olympics. He is not expecting to get chosen.
“It is my first year on the team and I think it would be a long shot but I am in contention and I think I could be a potential backup,” he said. “I’m very excited but I don’t think this one will happen. My ultimate goal is to be there for 2024 but you never know what could happen.”
With the next Summer Olympics only three years away, Pereira is committing himself to being there.
“I just want to put my head down and work towards that goal.”
He has been having the time of his life in Gatineau.
“It has been really exciting. The guys here are really skilled and are the best players that I have ever played with,” he said. “I was nervous going to the gym for my first couple of practices but it has been really great and the guys are all really good guys. They have been accepting of me and nice to me and they have been trying to teach me as much as they can.”
It is clear what he needs to do to take the next step in his volleyball career.
“It is just a consistency thing. Most of these guys have been playing pro for four, five or six years and they are way more consistent. It all comes down to how well you can play at your top level consistently.”
He feels he is making solid progress with his game.
“It is really just refining all my skills. I have been in training sessions two or three hours every day for the past year so I have able to get in a lot more reps and a lot more individual reps,” Pereira said. “It’s gaining confidence as well, just being in this environment and having to perform at a high level.”
He knows he is fortunate to have been able to train through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have been given. My university team at McMaster has been barely able to train this year. They have trained for a month, then they got shut down and then they maybe got another month in.”
Pereira had to have a negative test before heading to the training centre in Gatineau and all the athletes get tested every three or four days. None of the athletes are going out into the general population.
Pereira’s Olympic training time is not his first experience with Canada’s volleyball teams. In 2016, he won best receiver, best digger and best libero at the 2016 Junior NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation) championship and in 2017 was named the best receiver at the U-21 Pan American Cup.
Jordan credits his father, Albino, for his volleyball acumen.
“It has a lot to do with my dad being a coach at Eden. I have always been exposed to the game,” he said. “Pretty much out of the womb, he was putting a ball in my hand and I was able to go to the Eden practices. He exposed me to a lot of opportunities with volleyball and he coached me throughout my club and high school careers.
“He is really the reason why I am playing the game.”
Albino was encouraging but never overbearing.
“He never pushed me towards playing harder or choosing volleyball over other sports,” Jordan said. “It has always been my decision and he has supported whatever decision I’ve made and made sure I had the opportunities to pursue whatever sport or goals that I had.”
Volleyball is clearly Jordan’s passion.
“I just love how fast paced it is, how technical it is, and it is really a team game. Everyone has to pull his weight and it’s not like some other sports where one person can carry the team. In volleyball, you can’t touch the ball twice in a row so everyone has to do their part and perform.”
Pereira played most of travel volleyball career with Niagara Rapids and spent one season with the Pakmen. With the Rapids, he won two national titles and a provincial championship and another provincial crown with the Pakmen. In Grade 11, playing with Team Ontario, he won the National Team Challenge Cup.
The McMaster commerce graduate was recently named one of two recipients of the Ontario Volleyball Association’s OVAtion Awards. They are presented to male and female athletes who have been selected to, or have the ability to represent Ontario and/or Canada in international indoor or beach volleyball competitions. The monetary award of between $500 and $1,000 per year is to assist Ontario athletes pursue their volleyball objectives.
“I am grateful for the foundation that the OVA has given me which has allowed me to play in several world championships/FISU games in both beach and indoor and I look forward to representing Ontario and Canada in the future,” he said.
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