Janet Bang's favourite cheese is marble.
"I like its contrasting sharpness with the creamy taste of mozzarella," she said with a smile as three Gauntlet journalists listened intently to every answer she spun from a myriad of loosely connected questions--favourite cheese being one of those queries.
It may seem that one's cheese preference has little to do with volleyball, or even varsity sport for that matter. But it does say something about Bang's character in an odd little way. Marble, like Bang, is about complexities, balance and perspective. It's the ying-yang of cheeses, and yet at any given moment you don't know what you're going to get.
Janet Bang's athletic career began in dance. For those of us who have seen her play for the lady Dinos over the last five years, it may seem strange to picture this athletic five-foot-ten woman as a ballerina. It's true, but she did eventually move from tap shoes to sneakers once she began high school at William Aberhart in Calgary. From those high school days onward, she forged a relationship with the game of volleyball that only recently ended with this year's varsity season. Bang is preparing to graduate from the University of Calgary with a Master of Teaching.
Bang's story with the Dinos began six years ago when she first tried out for the team. At the end of those tryouts she found herself cut from the competition for being "pretty raw."
"I needed time to develop," she conceded.
So she did just that, and continued to play volleyball outside university, eventually playing for the Alberta team and the 1997 Canada Games. After a year had passed, Bang began to look again at the varsity level. At one point she had serious intended to move to Vancouver to play for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, but decided to give the Dinos one last try. Needless to say, she was successful even if her team was not over the next few years.
"I thought I made a big mistake because the team was so weak," she said. Fortunately, the next four years were an opportunity for her to grow and play with her team, culminating in her appointment as captain last season.
"I had a lot to offer to the team with my experience and positive attitude," she said. Unfortunately, the peak of her career was overshadowed by a fifth season spent almost entirely on the bench--an area of the court she had previously not explored.
Although she feels her preparation for the past season was her most disciplined yet, she quickly found her position on the court usurped by the powerful trio of Alisa Marriott, Amanda Moppett and Krista Kinsman.
"I really focussed on school," she said, explaining her mindset after losing her starting position.
After a poor individual performance at the first tournament of this past season, Bang missed a few practices to attend a conference. When she returned, she "felt alienated" on the court. The feeling would haunt her match after match as she cheered her team from the bench. And as time passed, she couldn't seem to shake feelings of embarrassment and failure.
"It was the hardest year of my life, by far," she confessed. "But I've matured the most this year... I know that I was supposed to get stronger."
Her positive and optimistic attitude was what pulled her out of a potential depression and into the happy state she lives in today.
As she prepares to leave the University of Calgary and the Dinos, Janet Bang reminisces with a quick grin and an honest laugh. She "had to work [her] ass off" to get where she is now. And even though she will deeply miss playing the game she loves, she speaks in glowing phrases about her plans to teach grades one, two and three. Her motivated personality is infectious and will be an asset for the rest of her life. Of course, there is always a final thing she'd like to say.
"If you've had the worst day, and you think the coach hates you, and the world is against you; if one person can remember to say something to you... 'you're doing great' or something positive like that, it makes a big difference... That's what got me by, even if I was feeling like a piece of crap."