Soonias top scorer in Chinese volleyball league, calls Sylvan home

A volleyball player who calls Sylvan Lake home is enjoying international success.

A volleyball player who calls Sylvan Lake home is enjoying international success. He recently finished tied for top scorer in the Chinese league in which he plays professionally.

Dallas Soonias, 29, plays for Fujian Men’s Volleyball Club in Fuzhou, China, and the Canadian national team.

China is the most recent stop in his career, which has seen him play professional volleyball in Poland, France, Russia, Spain and South Korea.

Raised in Red Deer, Soonias now calls Sylvan Lake home, visiting his mother and father during the little time off his career permits.

Between those visits, his mother Beverly Keeshig-Soonias avidly follows his pursuits from the other side of the world, and through the internet has kept up to date with his performances since he first turned professional.

“Usually, the teams have a website and I can find a translator for whatever language they’re in,” she said. “In Korea, it was easy to translate, and in France I was able to find translations, so that was helpful.”

Social media also allows her to stay current on his sporting endeavours.

“Once in a while, he’ll send us updates or he will post updates for his fans, and we’ll see them there.”

Keeshig-Soonias said her son is just one of two westerners who have played in the Chinese league where his team competes.

He’s also the only aboriginal member of the national team, she added.

Soonias has been in China since the beginning of October, choosing to play there after weighing options for his next move.

“He wanted a shorter season, because he has just come off of surgery on his shoulder, and theirs worked for him,” said Keeshig-Soonias.

Much of the travelling he’s done during his career has taken place due to a lack of professional leagues in Canada and the United States — the closest one is in Puerto Rico.

His move to China proved to be a good one, after he not only became the league’s top scorer, but also helped his team to their first-ever playoff championship.

Keeshig-Soonias said her son’s ability to adapt to new cultures has helped him greatly in his travels.

In China, he’s been able to share some of the volleyball knowledge and experience he’s amassed over the years.

“He’s been helping with some sort of cross-cultural issues in volleyball, just teaching them the western approach,” said Keeshig-Soonias. “He spends a little bit of time coaching specific aspects of the game.”

Growing up, her son took part in many other sports including karate, soccer and handball.

During his high school years in Red Deer he began to concentrate more on volleyball, and went on to play for Red Deer College before playing for the University of Alberta.

During his time with the university, he was scouted by the national team, and after a successful tryout, found himself on its roster.

That opened up doors for him internationally, and allowed him to pursue volleyball professionally with teams around the globe.

He’s also pursued opportunities outside of the sports world, including as a role model for Neechie Gear — a clothing company that supports aboriginal youths and athletes.

“Their goal is to empower youth through sports,” said Keeshig-Soonias. “That’s what he aspires to do — to work with aboriginal youth, and encourage them to pursue education and healthy living.

“That’s his big thing.”