It has been quite a year for Steve Maar.

Here’s a recap of the men’s volleyball star’s 2016: OUA Most Valuable Player, OUA All-Star, OUA Athlete of the Year, CIS first-team All-Canadian, played for Canadian men’s national volleyball B-team, and he was selected as alternate for the squad representing Canada at the Olympics.

Pretty good.

Now, Maar is looking ahead. In May, the outside hitter signed a professional contract with Pallavolo Padova, an Italian club competing in one of the best leagues in the world. Pro volleyball has been Maar’s plan for a while.

“I’ve wanted to be a pro since I was 14. I’ve kind of always had that in the back of my mind. For me, it’s the culmination of all of my training. I’ve been thinking about, dreaming about since I was in the sixth grade, it’s pretty special,” said Maar.

The competition jump will be significant. During Maar’s four years with McMaster, the team had a 73-5 record in the regular season and won the OUA championship each year.

The Italian opponents will be much better and 21-year-old is leaning on the Team Canada veterans for advice about the transition.

“It’s funny, they’ve pegged me as the ‘question master’ actually,” said Maar.

“The level of professional volleyball is just a lot higher. It’s a lot more physical. There’s no school, it’s a lot easier to work on your game.”

Maar said he is looking forward to the ability to improve as he plays against a higher talent level.

The Aurora, Ont. native has had taste of the next level when he competes with Team Canada, but professional volleyball will provide more consistency with the quality of opponents.

There will be some challenges too. When asked about his fears or concerns about moving overseas, Maar said that he has tried to block out the negative thoughts.

“My one concern is the relationships that I have here. I’m not the most outgoing, reach out person. I have to establish a schedule to make sure I’m connected to the people I care about,” said Maar.

Playing overseas can be tough. There are language barriers to overcome and a new culture to learn about. Athletes are no longer down the street from some of their best friends. Your support system is usually in a different time zone.

As Maar moves on from McMaster, he has to figure all of that out himself. But wherever he goes, he will always have fans cheering for him back in Hamilton.

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