Mathias Elser is a talented 20-year-old setter captaining the Canada team at the FIVB Volleyball U21 Men’s World Championship 2021. The 1.98m-tall playmaker, who plays university volleyball for the Trinity Western Spartans, was only 18 when he represented Canada at the 2019 edition of the U21 World Championship. Last month, in some unusual circumstances, he made his debut with the men’s national team of his country, earning continental silver at the 2021 NORCECA Volleyball Championship. He spoke about that and a lot else as he answered Volleyball World’s questions on the premises of the U21 World Championship in Sofia.
Mathias Elser aiming to be a positive influence
Q&A with Canada’s captain at U21 Men's World Championship
Published 06:50, 30 Sep 2021
Volleyball World: How has this U21 World Championship been for you so far?
Mathias Elser: It’s been a sweet opportunity for a lot of learning to happen. I am the only player on this squad that has played at an international tournament before and it’s been pretty cool for the other guys, and also for me, to get this experience and just keep progressing. So we are excited for the rest of the tournament.
Volleyball World: What do you hope to take away from this championship?
Mathias Elser: There is a lot of room for improvement. When we played against Brazil and Russia, you could see that their skills and ball control are just a little bit better than ours. So it’s motivating because now we know what we need to do and we can go back to Canada and keep training and keep making Volleyball Canada better and better.
Volleyball World: What kind of qualities does it take to be the leader of a team of young talents?
Mathias Elser: I think the biggest thing for me is just being stable and consistent, mentally, because there is a lot of emotions and a lot of distractions that happen and I think it’s my job to keep everyone focused on the task and the game. That’s probably my biggest role.
Volleyball World: Last month you debuted with the men's national team and earned continental silver, but playing as an outside hitter, not as a setter. How was that experience for you?
Mathias Elser: That was an amazing experience for me. That was my first opportunity to play at the senior level with the national team. A lot of weird things happened to our team, such as sickness and injuries, so I was given the opportunity to play left side at that tournament. It was just fun to go out there and earn a medal with the national team. I played as a receiver when I was younger, U14 and U15, for club volleyball in Canada. It had been like five years since my last chance, but I was just super excited to be on the court. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was just ready to compete and I think I did a decent job with that.
Volleyball World: The names of two more Elsers appear on various Canadian national team rosters. It is not just a coincidence, is it?
Mathias Elser: Aaron is my younger brother and Jesse is my older brother. They are both left sides. I’ve played quite a few times with Jesse. We were at the last U21 World Championship in Bahrain and we’ve been at Trinity Western University for the past two years together. My younger brother is also working his way up and he is also coming to the same school, so all three of us will be playing together at Trinity Western this coming season. That’s really exciting! It’s been a dream ever since we were growing up. There is a really strong connection between us, emotionally and mentally. I know I can lean on them, when I am struggling, and they know they can lean on me. We also have the kind of connection, where we can challenge each other when something’s not going right.
Volleyball World: What about your parents? How did you get into volleyball?
Mathias Elser: My dad was a member of the national team for a while back in the day and my mom only played university volleyball, but I was never forced to choose it as my sport or anything... I was always in the gym when my dad was playing with his buddies. There are pictures of me when I was two years old holding a volleyball on the sidelines, so I guess it’s kind of in my blood. I actually started playing soccer. I was really into that. And then, when I was around 14, I switched to volleyball and never looked back.
Volleyball World: What motivates you to train hard every day?
Mathias Elser: For me, it’s the vision of having Volleyball Canada be one of the best teams in the world. I really want to be one of the guys, who contribute to helping us climb the world rankings and winning medals internationally.
Volleyball World: Do you have any volleyball idols?
Mathias Elser: Not necessarily idols, but there are a lot of people I look up to in different ways. There are a lot of international setters that I watch on video and try to imitate. I really like watching De Cecco, because he is really intelligent in his decisions and also the speed of his hands and the quality of his sets are unmatched, I think.
Volleyball World: What do you dream of, on and off the court?
Mathias Elser: “On the court, I dream of representing Canada at the Olympics and earning a medal. Off the court, just be a positive influence on as many people as I can, especially as a volleyball player, who is in the spotlight a little bit and has the opportunity to have impact.”