By: Camila Stupecka
With the summer break around the corner, students are winding down in hopes of a quick and painless exam season. This is not the case for third-year outside hitter Andrew Richards and the rest of the McMaster men’s volleyball team.
A week after Mac’s bronze medal performance at the U Sports national championships, the team is back at work preparing for a new season, getting ready to come back stronger and more polished after their summer training. With the team losing key players like Danny Demyanenko and Andrew Kocur next year, Richards and his fellow teammates have major leadership roles to fill.
“I like to think I have some leadership value on the team [too],” said Richards. “In terms of sport, we’re pretty good athletes, and [my leadership] would never come from telling people how to play a game but rather as a motivational leader. As I’m getting older, I hope I can be one of those guys that leads the team in the right direction, and I think I can do that.”
His leadership skills were even acknowledged in April of 2016, when he was one of the first students ever to receive the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award, given to those who show potential and drive for change as future leaders.
“The Wilson Award has given me the opportunity to expand my leadership potential,” said Richards. “Outside of sport this year, I was involved with Mac Athletes Care, which allows varsity athletes to connect with youth in the Hamilton Community.”
His contributions to the community don’t stop there. Richards started Suited for Success, an initiative on campus to connect the Hamilton community with access to professional attire. The campaign managed to deliver over 200 articles of clothing to those in need.
Even though he is known today for his leadership in the community and as a fierce attacker on the volleyball court, Richards started his athletic career in competitive tennis although quickly realized that volleyball was his true passion.
“I realized how important it is to cherish when you can play.”
Third-year outside hitter
McMaster men’s volleyball
“When I played tennis, the schedule was crazy. I spent a lot of time away from home. I wanted to be part of the youth life, [spend time] with my friends,” said Richards. “I got into volleyball because of my older brother, [who plays] for the Guelph Gryphons. When I watched him play, I thought it was the coolest thing to do. And as soon as I started playing, I didn’t regret anything at all. It became my passion.”
Richards soon made his debut in volleyball, dedicating himself to a sport that had captured his attention almost instantaneously. His dedication and skill made it possible for him to gain prominent status as a player and a leader on teams like the junior national volleyball team in Canada. Moving forward, Richards began to establish his volleyball roots at McMaster as part of the men’s volleyball team.
His passion is constantly thriving and growing. Even in the face of injury, when a stress fracture in his left tibia last season left Richards off the court from the start of the regular season until the following year.
“That was probably the hardest thing I went through,” said Richards. “I came here to play volleyball [but] I had to sit and watch because I was on crutches. [I realized] how important it is to cherish when you can play and take recovering and taking care of your body seriously.”
His volleyball career was only strengthened by this temporary delay and today Richards excels not only on the court but as a dedicated and passionate leader throughout the community.
As a player, as a leader and as a part of the McMaster and Hamilton community, Andrew Richards truly is an inspiration.