Sometimes, a late start can be right on time.
That’s the case with professional beach volleyball player, Brandie Wilkerson. The Blenders Entourage athlete wasn’t always what she is today (and who is?), but she’s a testament to how the power of sport can drive self-confidence and identity, both on the court and off.
Brandie Wilkerson was born in Switzerland on July 1, 1992 to father, Herb Johnson Wilkerson, and mother, Stephanie. While sports were very much in her blood—dad was drafted by the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and mom was a Swiss national runner/two-time Ironman finalist—the push to pursue it wasn’t there at an early age.
Quite the contrary, in fact.
Speaking with The Shadow League, Wilkerson said, “[my parents] deterred me from being a professional athlete as much as possible. They were like, ‘No, get a real job. This is not the life you want’.”
In truth, Brandie already had other interests. By the time her family moved to Canada when she was seven, she was cultivating a love of art. Drawing, photography, fashion… the pull was strong, and she still celebrates that passion today. But, ultimately, her future lay elsewhere.
In time, the call to the court and field would prove too much. In high school, Brandie took up numerous sports—basketball, soccer, track and field, rugby, and volleyball, winning four ROPSAA volleyball championships (2006-09). Later representing Toronto’s York University Lions, Brandie won female rookie of the year on her way to becoming a four-time indoor volleyball All-Star and second-team All-Canadian.
Needless to say, the indoor court was kind to Brandie. And she continued indoor at university until friends on the beach national team began imploring her to try out. With the national training center so close to her school—and after being inspired while watching the 2012 London Olympics—Brandie finally took to the sands in 2013.
The results were immediate. And dramatic.
For someone from the Great White North, Brandie sure didn’t waste any time heating up. Her experience as a collegiate four-time All-Star helped her adapt quickly to beach volleyball, and her professional ascent was swift.
Following her 2017 rookie season on the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals), Brandie began excelling as a right-side blocker in the pro ranks. Initially on a low-ranked qualifier squad, she rocketed to the Manhattan Beach Open Finals, quickly becoming a Main Draw contender on both the AVP and FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) World Tour.
By November 2018—only roughly a year following her rookie season—Brandie achieved a No. 1 world ranking alongside teammate Heather Bansley. The same year, she was named FIVB Best Blocker. Since that time, she’s finished 2nd place on the AVP three times and represented Canada in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Click here for more on Brandie’s career highlights.
Brandie’s love of beach volleyball has had a ripple effect on the rest of her life. As a woman, the sport teaches her to embrace her sexuality and to celebrate the prowess of her body and that of her contemporaries. And as a multi-racial athlete, she’s grateful for the power the sport has in uniting a diverse world of fans and competitors.
To Brandie, there’s an empowerment experienced with beach volleyball that simply goes beyond the sport—and she strives to share it with others. That’s why she’s the co-founder of @projectworthyscholarship, designed to bolster representation of the BIPOC community in Canadian club volleyball.
Focused. Determined. Grateful. Giving. Brandie Wilkerson is more than an athlete. She’s a role model for men and women everywhere—and we couldn’t be more stoked to have her Living Forward with us as a member of the Blenders Entourage. //