The newest Varsity Blue athlete to go pro is last season’s volleyball captain and standout, Charlotte Sider.

The Ottawa native — who studied kinesiology — played left side for the Blues for five years and has recently decided to take her talents to Belgium, signing an eight-month contract with VT Optima Lendelede for the 2015-2016 season.

Growing up, Sider played many different sports, including swimming, tennis, track and field, basketball, and, of course, volleyball.  However, it was not until the tenth grade that she decided to focus on volleyball.

Sider, a driven athlete and captain, realized that among all the sports she played, volleyball was the one she was most passionate about and most wanted to pursue. “[I’ve] always had the desire to play [volleyball] at the highest level possible,” said Sider, who has now reached that goal by signing a professional contract.

Sider also credits her experience at U of T  as influencing her decision to turn pro —  from coaches, to medical staff, and, of course, her teammates. “U of T provided [me] with a strong support system… [and] a firm foundation for volleyball,” she explained.  The program also taught her professionalism, which is applicable beyond the world of professional sports.

During her time at U of T, Sider was also provided with numerous opportunities to represent not only the university, but Canada as well.

She was a member of the FISU beach volleyball team in Kazan, Russia in 2013, where she and her partner Rachel Cockrell — of the University of Manitoba — made it to the quarterfinals. Sider also represented Canada at the under-21 and under-23 world championships.

These experiences may have helped prepare Sider for playing in Europe, where volleyball is much more of a spectator sport than in Canada.  In fact, Sider says that many teams play their matches in gyms and stadiums designed specifically for volleyball. The larger fan base overseas also means that it is easier for the athletes to make a living playing in professional leagues.

Sider says she is taking things in stride, embracing her current opportunity in Belgium, where playing volleyball will not come without some unique challenges — like adapting to a new culture and learning how to communicate — but she says that she is looking forward to “[experiencing] volleyball in a totally new context.”

Regardless of any obstacles that may arise, Sider is staying positive by reminding herself that “volleyball is volleyball no matter where you live.”

Though trying to take life “one season at a time,” the future looks bright for this former Varsity Blue.