Waterloo athlete represents Canada on national sitting volleyball team

Nasif Chowdhury balances athletic career with study in Recreation and Sport Business program

By Jon Parsons University Relations

A second-year undergraduate student in the Recreation and Sport Business program is a rising star in the sport of international sitting volleyball.

Nasif Chowdhury represents Canada and helped bring the men’s national team near the pinnacle of the sport in recent competition.

"I was at the Paralympic qualifiers for Tokyo in 2019, and unfortunately we just missed the qualification," Chowdhury says. "In November 2022, we were in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Sitting Volleyball World Championships."

At the recent World Championships, Chowdhury and the Canadian team ended up finishing eleventh, after a hard-fought win over Poland.

A disability-specific sport

As a paralympic sport, international sitting volleyball is for disabled people and has restrictions around which disability categories are eligible to play.

"My specific disability is a limb differential," Chowdhury says. "I do have both my legs, but one is about eight inches shorter than the other. Because of that, I wear a prosthetic device that a lot of amputees wear."

The sport has many similarities to volleyball in terms of the rules and gameplay. Some of the key differences are the size of the court, the height of the net and of course that the athletes are sitting on the ground.

But the word "sitting" should not convey the impression that the players are stationary. The athletes are never still, but instead constantly and swiftly shifting along the floor to dig up the ball, set hits and look to block.

"One of the main rules is that you have to keep your butt on the ground, but there’s some leniency," Chowdhury explains. "There can be situations where your butt might be off the ground, but your whole lower back is on the ground. That’s totally fine. And you can move on the court by getting up slightly off the ground."

Sports culture and camaraderie

As with many sports, sitting volleyball has a specific culture and sense of community among athletes. As Chowdhury describes it, the Canadian men’s national team is a group that welcomed him as family.

"We all have disabilities, and we all have amputations or prosthetics," he says. "And we can all kind of laugh about it and have some fun with it. It’s something you don’t necessarily get with regular sports, but we all know each other, we accept it, and we’ll make jokes."

Asked to elaborate, Chowdhury recounts something that he’d never heard before getting involved with the sport but that now he’s heard countless times.

"Pass me my leg," he says with a smile. "Say your teammate is coming off the court and hopping over to the bench, and he’s just like, ’pass my leg.’ And you grab his prosthetic for him and hand it over."

Chowdhury and other members of the Canadian men’s sitting volleyball team hosted an exhibition of the sport at the University of Waterloo as part of International Day for Persons with Disability in early December 2022.