Growing up, Max Burt (Gander, N.L.) and Bryan Duquette (St. Thomas, O.N.) had dreams of playing volleyball professionally.
They’ve taken slightly different paths to get to where they are today, but now at 28 and 25 years old respectively, the two athletes' aspirations have become a reality.
Finding a connection
Burt and Duquette's paths originally crossed at Dalhousie in 2010-11. Duquette, an outside hitter, was set to begin his first year with the Tigers; Burt, a middle blocker, was entering his final season with the squad.
Burt had already been a multiple-time CIS [now U Sports] and AUS all-atar, and was also a member of Canada’s national team program — something Duquette eventually wanted to get to as well.
At the beginning of the season, there was an open starting position and Duquette seized the opportunity, much like Burt had done as a rookie four years prior.
“He [Bryan] had the same opportunity,” says Burt. “I just kind of made sure I was hard on him every day in training and made sure he wasn’t taking any days off.”
Duquette appreciated the mentorship that Burt offered him.
“Max has always been like a big brother to me,” says Duquette. “One of the biggest things was just the work ethic and expectations that he played with every single day. I basically tried to mirror myself from the way he went about his career, and just his attitude about things.”
Fast-forward to the end of the season, and Burt had garnered another AUS all-star selection, while Duquette was named the team’s rookie of the year.
Middle blocker on the move
In 2012-13, Burt signed his first pro contract with Indonesian squad Bank Sumsei Babel.
The playing style was the biggest shift that Burt noticed during his time with the team.
“They play a different style of game in Southeast Asia,” he says. “They play quick with a lot of different combinations, whereas in Europe and North America, it’s a lot more structured and a more physical style.”
After one season in Indonesia, Burt took his talents to the Czech Republic, where he spent the 2013-14 campaign and led the team in points.
He’s now spent the past two years in France, and recently signed his first two-year contract.
Burt noted that playing on one-year contracts prior to 2016 was never a big concern in terms of stability. In fact, it gave him extra motivation to succeed.
“I’ve never really thought of it that way, because a couple of my contracts were taken as a stepping stone anyway where I was looking to perform well, gain more exposure and move onto a higher league and more high profile team,” he says.
According to Burt, the level in France is of a higher caliber than it was in Indonesia and the Czech Republic. It’s also been an easier transition, as he speaks French and has his girlfriend with him as well.
“It’s been good these past two years in France, and I’m pretty comfortable here. I enjoy the league and I enjoy the competition, so I think it’s a great fit for me.”
Hard work paying off
While Burt was signing his first professional contract, Duquette was entering his third season with Dalhousie – and first as team captain.
He earned all-Canadian status that year, and earned conference championships in each of his last two seasons.
Duquette knew he wanted to go pro at the end of his U Sports career. He felt the best place to start was by trying out for Canada’s National “B” team in 2014. While he ultimately didn’t make the team, he got great feedback from the coaches, who asked him to be a part of their training team for the following year at the Team Canada Training Centre in Gatineau, Quebec.
“That was kind of the real stepping stone to going and playing professionally,” says Duquette.
The outside hitter would get his big break this past July, as Germany’s CV Mitteldeutschland offered him his first pro contract for the 2016-17 season.
“The league that I’m in is a good place for me to start over here [in Germany],” he says. “It’s the second division in Germany. The expectations are definitely higher and stress can be there. Fortunately, the team that I’m with is strong in our league, so those are things that I don’t necessarily have to worry about.”
There’s a mutual level of respect among Duquette and his teammates, and he’s gained valuable insight as well, especially from certain members of the squad with over 10 years of professional experience.
“It’s a team, so everyone tries to be as respectful as possible and mesh together as well as possible.”
Both Burt and Duquette are happy with how far they’ve come in their playing careers. They found common ground in Halifax, earned numerous accolades, and have now achieved their dreams.
Regardless as to what’s next for both, they can each be happy knowing how far they’ve come.
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