Farnaaz Johal has broken out this year as an impact player for the Simon Fraser University (SFU) volleyball team.
Farnaaz Johal has broken out this year as an impact player for the Simon Fraser University (SFU) volleyball team. She finished the year 5th on the team in Kills per set with 1.48 and 5th on the team in points-per-serve with 2.06. Farnaaz just completed her 3rd year as a redshirt sophomore with the team and this as her first year where she featured as an important player and was a true starter by the end of the year. Growing up, Farnaaz was more of a soccer player. When her family moved to Penticton, that’s where she picked up the sport of volleyball in 8th grade. She comments how “it was a natural fit given my height and athleticism, and I really enjoyed it.”
It wasn’t until Farnaaz was in 10th grade when she started playing at a high level and sought to bring herself to the next level. She made the UBCO club team which was an elite club team in the sport. “I knew I could make the team as I did have the talent, but being a year younger than the others was a disadvantage. Getting the call that I made the team was incredible,” recalls Farnaaz. She also played on the BC provincial team through her last three years of high school while representing the national team in the summer of 2015.
In Penticton, there really wasn’t much in terms of high level competition or clubs for volleyball. Once she made the UBCO team, she had to decide between volleyball and basketball as her sport and went with volleyball. She shared that “once I made that decision, I never looked back. Some of my greatest memories have come from that team and I have loved every minute of it.”
Her athletic prowess is evidenced by her multi-sport talents, but she was not always seen this way. In grade 9, Farnaaz tried out for the BC team and figured she was likely to make the team. However, she did not make the team and was told that while she did have good height, her quickness was lacking. She reflects feeling “gutted by this as it was a major setback for my career. But I just used this as fuel to train harder and go all-in to strengthen my game.” She made a commitment to improve her speed and athleticism, and used this motivation and improvement to propel herself to the national team the next year.
In 2016, Farnaaz's team made the provincials as a lower ranked team but had a great tournament to land the silver medal. From there, they further defied expectations by performing strongly in nationals. Although an ankle injury hampered her tournament play, that year really reinforced her passion for the sport. Farnaaz reminisces “how the atmospheres of the tournaments were amazing, and being able to prove ourselves as a strong team just made the journey that much better.”
The student athlete life is certainly challenging, but it has also been very rewarding for Farnaaz. At SFU, Farnaaz is currently studying marketing, and the difficulty of student athlete life is the requirement to be enrolled in 12 credits per semester while also having consistent volleyball schedules.
In the fall, the team plays two games a week plus practices throughout the whole term while the spring term has daily 7:00 AM practices, which really constrains the time available to handle full courseloads. Despite these challenges, Farnaaz has lived up to the task and maintains that “this student athlete experience has improved my time management skills while also making me a tougher and well-rounded person.” Farnaaz hopes to remain involved in volleyball in the long term whether that is playing professionally or continuing to coach. Educationally she has her sights set on law school or perhaps obtaining her MBA as she continues her studies. Her immediate goal is to build off of her recent year and make her mark at a high level for the team in her last two years at SFU and help her team win and flourish. Given her propensity for success, we will definitely hear of great things to come for Farnaaz both on and off the court for years to come.
Photos: Kendra Ho & Paul Yates - SFU Athletics