Etienne Hagenbuch has been playing volleyball since he was seven, and he chose to dedicate himself to the sport over tennis at age 15. Since that decision, Hagenbuch played in the Swiss pro league and eventually made the move to the University of Saskatchewan.
Hagenbuch plays libero for the Huskies men’s volleyball team and has been doing so for the past four years. During his time at the U of S, he has been working towards a degree in finance at the Edwards School of Business, and he was on the Huskie all-academic second team in the 2016-17 season.
In Switzerland, Hagenbuch has been on the national senior team since 2012, and he continues to play over the summers. When he was on the under 18 team, they won the Swiss volleyball national championship. In addition to these accomplishments, Hagenbuch was also a part of the second Swiss pro league from 2012 to 2014.
The Swiss volleyballer speaks to one of the biggest differences he experienced in switching over to volleyball in Canada, which was also a major reason for his move.
“[They are] all younger guys here. When I played in Switzerland, they were all average like 30 years old — I was always the youngest guy, basically, on the whole team,” Hagenbuch said. “That’s why I wanted to change, too. I’ve always been seen as a young guy, and I wanted to take more of a leadership position.”
Hagenbuch, who maintains his position on the Swiss senior team over the summer, is a prime example of the opportunities one can gain by excelling in sports, including travelling to sporting events, as he explains.
“Last summer, we went to Taiwan… So, that was a huge memory I will never forget. That was crazy,” Hagenbuch said.
Aside from the trip to Taiwan, the Swiss team also travels around Europe over the summers. Travel experiences like these and crossing the Atlantic to live in Canada are things Hagenbuch doesn’t feel he would have experienced if it weren’t for sport.
“Especially coming to Canada — I don’t think I would have ever done that without volleyball. I probably would have started studying in Switzerland and stayed there my whole life. It opened up my mind a lot,” Hagenbuch said.
When travelling to different countries, especially for something like university, there can be a number of obstacles to getting completely comfortable with an entirely new culture. Hagenbuch explains that he had some difficulty getting into social circles, particularly because of a language barrier, but that being a part of the Huskies has helped him.
“My English was pretty bad in the beginning,” Hagenbuch said. “They really help you, and I think it’s easier to come here and play for a team than [to] come here by yourself, basically, and just take classes. They always take you out — your teammates — and put you in their environment, and [you] meet their friends, and then you hang out with them. It’s super easy to find friends.”
After playing on several teams in several countries, Hagenbuch has met a lot of people through volleyball, and he says it’s the best part of being involved in sports.
“The relationships you make over all the time you play — just all the people you meet [and] just being in their environment — I really like that. As a team sport, you play against a team, but after the game, you’re kind of friends. I went through a couple of teams and still stay in contact with old teammates.”
Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor
Photo: David Hartman