By Peter Go

About two hours east of Edmonton is the small town of St. Paul Edmonton. St. Paul has a population of just under 6,000 people.

To give you some context on how small St. Paul is, NAIT has about 16,000 students in credit programs and 12,000 students in apprenticeship programs. While in 2018, Edmonton had an estimated population of over 835,000. St. Paul, Alberta, however, has gifted us the latest great NAIT athlete, Johnathan Shapka.

Johnathan Shapka is in his first year with the NAIT Ooks men’s volleyball team, but he has already shown the leadership that you can’t teach. He is one the Ooks starting outside hitters and at 24 years of age, he stands six foot four while weighing 225 pounds. He is from St. Paul, Alberta and may seem like your typical ‘Berta boy which in this case isn’t a bad thing.

Shapka loves to go hunting and fishing, which is something he’s been doing for quite some time and two of his passions outside of volleyball. He’s never played football or hockey despite having the body for either of the two sports

“My dad turned me away from the high concussion rate sports and I’d accredit my passion for volleyball to my high school coach, Jill Ranger,” said Shapka when talking about playing other sports and why he chose to play volleyball. “She really helped in developing my skill and ultimately helped me become who I am both on and off the court.”

Shapka’s power and intensity are perfect for the second-ranked NAIT Ooks. He is the perfect fit to what head coach Doug Anton is trying to do. That is why Shapka was excited to come to NAIT. That and because NAIT offered the program he was looking for, which is Denturist Technology.

Along with being a first-year athlete, Shapka is also in his first year of dentistry. It may seem like a weird path for an athlete to take, but for him, it’s always been something he was destined to do.

“My dad is a dentist and my uncle is a denturist, so I guess [I’m] just following the family footsteps,” said Shapka when talking about taking this career path.

Being away from what home isn’t easy for anyone and for Shapka, it’s no different. But even with volleyball and school taking up most of his time, he has been able to find new friends that have turned into family. Brandon Eagle, a second-year player from Australia and him have become close on and off the court. Their passion and intensity have been able to power the Ooks team into second-place heading into the holiday break.