After graduating from college, ETHS alum Derek Guimond (Class of 2011) thought it was the “end of the road” for his volleyball career. But, when he received a scholarship to the University of Essex in the U.K., he found a way to continue playing volleyball while getting his M.B.A. Because of this positive experience, Guimond decided he wanted to give others the same opportunity to continue playing volleyball after college.
With the help of his friend Vlad Vukovic, he started a recruitment company called the Guimond Vukovic Group to help National Collegiate Athletic Association and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics student athletes find a way to play their sport while pursuing higher education overseas.
Guimond first began the recruitment company because a few of his former coaches at the University of Essex were asking him for references of players and to see if he could help with recruitment. It took Guimond almost two years to scale up the business until it was a full-time commitment, and now he helps send about 80 students per year overseas.
“We are sort of an information resource for those students, and we are also consultants to the universities that we work with,” Guimond said. “It’s good for student athletes when they exhaust their eligibility in the states, because they have opportunities. If they want to leverage their sporting talents to keep pursuing higher education, they can do that. [The program is] free of charge. None of the students has to pay us anything.”
Guimond was introduced to volleyball at Haven Middle School when he watched the students vs. teachers game, but did not start playing until he was a freshman at Evanston Township High School. He was on the freshman B basketball and football teams and decided to play volleyball in the spring season, because his friends were also playing. He quickly moved up to the Junior Varsity team and practiced with Varsity towards the end of the year.
He said he loved to represent ETHS, and enjoyed looking back on the history of Beardsley gym while playing at the school.
Before playing overseas, Guimond was a member of the Loyola University Chicago volleyball team for one year. He had not received any Division 1 offers, but he had the opportunity to walk on at Loyola Chicago or Pepperdine University.
He wasn’t successful in his first attempt to join the Loyola Chicago team his freshman year, which was devastating, he said, because volleyball was his whole identity at ETHS. After Loyola Chicago won the national championship in 2014, the MVP of the match convinced the coach to give Guimond another opportunity. As a senior in college, Guimond made the team, and Loyola Chicago won its second straight national championship.
After college, Guimond wanted to continue playing his sport but did not know if that was possible. He soon discovered the opportunity to play at the University of Essex while pursuing his M.B.A, and later played for Tendring Volleyball Club and then IBB Polonia London. Now, Guimond is playing for Nea Salamina Famagusta Volleyball Club in Cyprus. He says he has loved playing volleyball because it has allowed him to travel, experience different cultures and compete in many countries across Europe.
When Guimond was a professional volleyball player in England, he competed against ETHS alum Andrew Pink, who was also a member of the Rutgers University volleyball team and participated in the 2012 Olympics for Great Britain. He said he felt pride knowing that there was another ETHS grad with a successful career in volleyball.
Guimond remains in contact with the ETHS girls and boys volleyball coaches. He said, “I have organized an open gym for alumni and current students to get together and play volleyball.” He said it was inspiring to see former players come back to ETHS after playing in college, so he wanted to pass that along to future athletes.
Although his current goal is to help college volleyball athletes play overseas after they graduate, eventually he hopes to help create a professional volleyball league in the United States so that more athletes have the ability to play volleyball after college.