Josh McKay is stepping out of the darkness in his latest journey in professional volleyball.
McKay, the former Winnipeg Wesmen setter who was named a Canada West all-star in his final season at U of W in 2015-16, has signed his second professional contract overseas and will join St. Nazaire Atlantique in France's Ligue B for the 2018-19 season.
McKay, who posted career-highs for kills, aces and digs as a fifth-year senior and leveraged that into a place on the Canadian Senior B team in the spring of 2016, has accepted the offer in France after a year playing professionally in Finland.
McKay is looking ahead to his chance in France and helping his new team in St. Nazaire, a small city on the country's west coast, about 400 km southwest of Paris.
"This team has finished top four the last three years in the B division, so they're really making a push to go to the A (division), so that was really enticing," said McKay, who returned to his alma mater to help run a youth volleyball camp last week in addition to his own camp he ran in Winnipeg earlier the off-season.
McKay credits another former Wesmen setter, Dustin Addison-Schneider, with showing him the path to the elite levels of the game. Addison-Schneider, who won a national championship with U of W, had a standout international career suiting up for the national team during the program's foundational years that has led to a No. 6 world ranking.
"I saw how hard you had to work because I got to train with Dusty and former (U Sports) guys who are super-good," McKay said. "Dusty's probably one of the greatest setters in Canadian history so I got to see how hard they work and they would bring me along, and I really got to see what it took."
McKay was grateful for the chance in Finland, but admits it wasn't the perfect fit in a country where long days of darkness – sometimes 23 or 24 hours without sun in the winter – proved to be too much to take.
"Living in that extreme was definitely the most difficult part," McKay said.
McKay will exit Finland, where he helped Team Lakkapaa to a fourth-place finish in the Finland Volleyball League, a result that McKay said was a solid ending for the club.
McKay, the son of Wesmen men's volleyball coach Larry McKay and women's basketball coach Tanya McKay, said he remains in contact with his parents on a regular basis when overseas, and isn't against taking the occasional bit of wisdom from his dad, one of the most accomplished coaches in Canada. Larry McKay is currently in Gatineau, Que., heading up the national Senior B team.
"I probably Skype them or at least text every day," Josh McKay said.
"He just passes (advice) along. I send him my videos or he watches the game and he'll just give me a couple pointers, if I ask. If I'm upset, he won't ask. If I do good, that's probably when he's probably going to be like 'Well, you didn't do this…'
"But he's a dad first."