David Moll, for Dinos Athletics
Oct. 10, 2023
Dinos men’s volleyball player builds on pro experience with university team
The usual path for an athlete is to go from amateur or school to pro, but for Dinos men’s volleyball player Louis Kunstmann, the opposite is true.
The native of Neuenhain, Germany was offered a pro contract right out of high school with the local team, United Volleys Frankfurt.
After playing pro for a couple of seasons, Kunstmann realized he wanted to do something academic and get a degree. However, he thought that door was closed to him as he couldn’t compete in the NCAA, having already signed a pro contract.
An unknown avenue to academics and competitive volleyball opened to Kunstmann in the 2019-2020 season, when Blain Cranston joined United Volleys Frankfurt. Cranston, BKin'19, MMgmt'22, an alum of the Dinos volleyball program, talked to Kunstmann about playing in Calgary and encouraged him to reach out.
“I honestly didn’t know Canada had a university sports system,” Kunstmann admits. “But then this opportunity came up and, from the perspective of Germany, Canada feels like the United States, except friendlier and more welcoming, so it felt like a good choice.”
His time in Canada didn’t get off to the most ideal start, though, as what would have been his first season with the Dinos was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kunstmann, a Faculty of Science student, says the season cancellation gave him the opportunity to focus on his academics and learn how to manage his time so when volleyball resumed the following season, he wasn’t too overwhelmed.
Even though Germany is half a world away, Kunstmann found there weren’t too many differences between his home country and Canada, so the adjustment to living abroad wasn’t too difficult.
“There’s nothing too crazy to get used to, you can get the same kinds of items in grocery stores and places like that, so it didn’t take me too long to get used to life in Canada,” he says.
When Kunstmann finally took the court, he found instant success, earning Canada West All-Rookie Team honours. He admits there might need to be a caveat to that.
“I felt a little bad about it, as I had two years of pro out of high school and I was a little bit older than the other rookies,” he recalls. “It was still nice to get the recognition.”
The level of play was also a little different for Kunstmann. He notes that the players in U SPORTS tend to be between the ages of 17 and 24, while in the pro leagues there could be veterans with decades of volleyball experience.
“The efficiency and precision on the pro team was a little different,” he explains. “In Canada, the play is a little less solidified and more physical.”
Kunstmann was challenged in his second season with a position change due to injuries and sickness incurred by the team in their first game of the winter semester. A middle blocker for his entire life, Kunstmann was moved to left-side hitter.
In this new position, he played serve and receive, passing, and hitting on the outside, which were all new experiences for him. Kunstmann took to these skills well, though, as he has now adapted the position full-time.
“It was a lot of new skills that I had to learn on the fly,” he says. “I liked the transition a lot, I was comfortable playing middle, but having a new challenge was a lot of fun.”
Kunstmann will open his third season with the Dinos on Oct. 20. It’s a team with very little turnover from last year, having lost only two players to graduation, and with one recruit incoming.
“It feels like the team is solidifying together,” he says. “Everyone is getting older and more experienced, so the level of practice is getting higher.”
While he says it’s tough to set expectations because other teams will come back looking different as well, Kunstmann always has one goal in mind.
“I play volleyball to have fun. For me, fun comes through working hard, competing at the highest level, and performing well,” he explains.
“That’s always what I strive for, personally and with my team.”
Kunstmann and the Dinos men’s volleyball team begin their 2023 Canada West campaign on Oct. 20 when they host the MacEwan Griffins at the Jack Simpson Gym. Single game and season tickets are on sale now at GoDinos.com/Tickets. UCalgary students can access free tickets by using their UCID on ShowPass.