By Zachary Flynn
“Being involved with post-secondary athletics, I’ve always enjoyed moving and being active and I can’t sit around for too long,” said head coach Greg Gulash, who played for the NAIT Ooks when he was a student, himself.
“So once the post-secondary sports were done, keeping active was something I naturally gravitated towards to help fill some of those days and help me stay in a good mental place as well.”
Gulash spends most of his free time between the gym, the mountains and Edmonton’s river valley where he enjoys hiking and exploring the green space.
With the cold weather on its way, Gulash will be looking to add on some layers and transition over to winter activities.
“I also do some cross country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s just bundling up and making sure you’re all covered up,” Gulash said.
“I think if you live in Edmonton you’d go stir crazy if you say inside for eight months a year, so finding some activities to do in the winter helps keep me balanced.”
Gulash has also been a part of the Global Shapers Edmonton Hub where he’s taken part in initiatives like Leftovers Edmonton where he helped transport excess food from vendors to agencies that distribute the food to people who face food insecurity.
“It’s stuff I find meaningful and helps better the community. Edmonton’s a pretty cool place and I like making it a little bit cooler.”
Mitch Lewington is one of many veterans on this experienced men’s volleyball team. The fourth-year player moved over 13,000 kilometres from Australia to Canada to play collegiate volleyball and is looking at what could potentially be his last year with the team.
“I just like the friendships I’ve made here. I’d say that’s the one thing I’ll miss the most from this experience is the people you meet. There are always a whole bunch of people you meet every year,“ said Lewington.
In Lewington’s first year, he needed to acclimatize to Canadian winters, as the winters back home in Australia are nowhere near as cold.
“It averages about 20 degrees in the winter back home and it’s quite like fall here but it rains a lot,” said Lewington. “I’ve definitely acclimatized to it, but I still do like the warmth better.”
When he reflects on the lifestyle he has in Canada compared to his life back home, he isn’t too sure which he prefers.
“I honestly do like the snow, but I wish it snowed in -5. It’s really nice and you get things that come with it like snowboarding. But it’s hard to say that when I used to live five minutes from the beach. I like both Canada and Australia. It’s hard to say which one I like more,” Lewington said.
Lewington is taking life one step at a time and while he doesn’t currently plan on returning for a fifth year with the ACAC as he is set to finish his program, he isn’t making any definitive choices quite yet.
He plans on spending the summer of 2020 in Edmonton before making any final decisions of whether or not to return home.
This year, the NAIT Ooks men’s volleyball team only has one first-year player, Gai, hailing from Canberra, Australia.
Gai is one of two Aussies on the team this year and is following in the footsteps of Mitch Lewington. Both Lewington and Gai played for the Austrailian Junior National Development Team and when Gai began looking internationally for schooling, his coach pointed him to NAIT.
“I started to look into it and it turned out that NAIT needed a setter and everything just fell into place,” said Gai.
The journey to Edmonton took Gai over 13,500 kilometres away from home and put an 18-hour time difference between him and his family. Despite this, he still actively keeps in touch with those back home.
“We always message daily and on Sundays (their Monday mornings), I facetime my family,” he said.
“For me, it’s my first time away from home, so I’m still learning how to manage my time, cook, go to school, train and study.”
Even though the move has been a challenge for Gai, he said his team has been a massive support for him.
“On the first day, the first time meeting everybody, everybody was incredibly nice to me,” said Gai. “They taught me the best places in the city and helped me transition. Things like finding the best phone plan, finding the right winter jackets or looking for work… everybody’s been super helpful.”
Headshots provided by NAIT Athletics