SPIKED: Australian Volleyball Representative Tom Wheeler leaps up over the net and slams down the ball.
SPIKED: Australian Volleyball Representative Tom Wheeler leaps up over the net and slams down the ball.

IGS, Canada set aspiring teacher on success path

WHEN Australian volleyball representative Tom Wheeler accepted a scholarship to Canada's Grande Prairie College he found a home away from home.

Despite being on the other side of the globe, Wheeler believes the culture fostered among the campus's 61,000 students is not unlike that of his former school Ipswich Grammar.

"It is really good to be part of a small town having a sporting team culture," he said.

"I'm very thankful. IGS kind of felt like that. Everyone is really supportive of high level volleyball."

Wheeler has fond memories of his days in the school yard. While at IGS, he starred for the premiership winning 14A and 15A sides before commanding the net with authority as a key man in the Firsts.

A permanent fixture in Queensland teams across year 10, 11 and 12, Wheeler saw the GPS competition as an ideal chance to develop and showcase his skills before pursuing his aspirations internationally.

When the time came to select a college, the presence of two other familiar Australian recruits at Grande Prairie lured him to sign and also helped him feel comfortable on and off the court.

"They are really inviting of internationals," he said. "They want you to feel special and they respect that you're an international. It was such a good opportunity for both sport and study. It is really similar. All of the professors are really nice. I don't regret going over at all."

Studying to be a teacher, Wheeler said it had been fascinating to see how the Canadian education system differed from the Australian version.

He said Canadians placed more emphasis on instilling self-motivation and preparing the kids for life from a young age.

"The children are encouraged to make grown-up decisions from early on," he said.