By Sophie Bernard
As members of the Class of 2020 throw their caps over Zoom calls, Maxime Gratton has his eyes on the next step in his own story – university volleyball.
Gratton graduated from École secondaire catholique Garneau in Orléans and will be off to McMaster University this fall to study kinesiology and social sciences. The school recruited him in February to play for their highly ranked U Sports team.
“When I heard McMaster was interested it was like a dream come true, and it worked out because I’m already going there next year,” Gratton said.
Having been part of the Maverick Volleyball Club throughout his middle and high school career, Gratton’s athletic CV is nothing short of stellar. He became a national champion in 2015, a provincial champion in 2018, and was chosen to be on a variety of Team Ontario and National Team Challenge Cup squads throughout 2017 to 2019.
Those on-court accolades won him the Ken Davies Memorial Award last month.
The Ken Davies Memorial Award is presented annually by the Ontario Volleyball Association (OVA) to one male student who “demonstrates the qualities of determination, leadership, athletic ability and sportsmanship as exemplified by Ken Davies himself,” as described on the OVA website.
Louis-Pierre Mainville, the director of Athlete Development for the OVA, shared his thoughts on Gratton’s newest award and his optimism for the graduating athlete’s future career.
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“Maxime is very deserving of [the Ken Davies Memorial] award. He is extremely competitive and committed to the process he believes will help him achieve his goals [and] he is very demanding of himself and always wants to improve. I have no doubt that the skills he has acquired over the past years will help him achieve success at the post-secondary level and eventually with the national team programs,” Mainville said.
Off the club court, Gratton can be found enjoying time with friends, coaching his former middle school’s volleyball team, and fundraising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which he draws a personal link to.
“I’m diabetic. I got diagnosed, and the year after I started playing volleyball,” Gratton said. “That was probably the hardest thing I had to do – trying to adjust myself with my new condition to play competitive volleyball.”
He hasn’t let his diagnosis get in the way of his success.
“Now I’m way better at it. I got used to it. At the beginning everything was new, so it was just really hard to figure everything out.”
Due to COVID-19, Gratton’s spring training and competition plans were halted.
“[The pandemic] cut my last season short for club, so I missed out on three tournaments, two of them being the most important tournaments of the year, provincials and nationals. I can’t practice volleyball in a gym right now, so it’s definitely making things more challenging,” said Gratton.
Gratton’s 18U Mavericks team had been looking to retain the provincial championship they won last year and improve on a quarterfinals-worthy performance they had at the 2019 nationals.
Also unable to try out for Canada’s Junior National Team as planned, Gratton’s future school brings forth a different opportunity – fellowship.
“They gave out a program for workouts and I follow that program. It keeps me in shape and I stay connected with the guys I’m going to play with next year. It’s different, I’m touching way less of the ball but I’m still staying in shape.”
Gratton can’t help but thank his past while looking to his future.
“One of my best memories was playing for the youth national team last year and going to Florida and playing in an international tournament. That was incredible… It’s also been spending all my time in club. I’ve played club for seven years and all the years have been amazing with my teammates,” Gratton said.
As he gets ready to move to Southern Ontario, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left Gratton with a slightly bittersweet taste as he reminisces on his high school career.
“I was expecting it to be different, I was expecting a prom and to see my friends one last time… It feels good to graduate, that’s for sure, but I would’ve liked to say bye to all of my friends and teachers before leaving.”