Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada's V-ball success hard won

Upstart Canucks surprising rivals

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IT may seem like the Canadian men's volleyball team is just another overnight success after a recent upset over powerhouse Russia.

In fact, it's a success story seven years in the making.

And the man who built the foundation is coach Glenn Hoag, who has guided the team since 2006.

Volleyball isn't a sport that gets a lot of attention in Canada, although that may change if the national team keeps developing and winning more.

But University of Winnipeg volleyball coach Larry McKay says outside of Canada, people know who Glenn Hoag is and they respect him. The national volleyball training centre was based in Winnipeg until it moved to Gatineau in 2009.

"In Europe, they think he's one of the best coaches in the world," says McKay, who adds that it's a sentiment Hoag's players share.

"He's a guy that's incredibly passionate about what he's doing," says attacker Justin Duff of Winnipeg.

On the team four years, he also played for Hoag when he coached professionally in Turkey.

"I've not seen a lot of people that care as much about their job and what they're doing as he does."

A key to Hoag's plan to revitalize the national team was re-establishing the national training centre, after a decade when university players moved directly to international play.

Huge

Duff says that alone is huge. It gives Canada's players the training they need to cope with teams from countries where you can turn pro at 17 or 18 and play full-time.

"The full-time centre helps us catch up. It gives us a full year of training physically and with basic skills of volleyball and advance tactics."

Duff points to Rudy Verhoeff. The Calgary native had just finished university and never played pro, yet he was a huge contributor to their recent success in the World League thanks to the national centre.

But the rest of the story comes from what Hoag learned through years playing and coaching professionally in Europe -- the way to succeed is basically to sweat the details.

"Establish systems and get the players to (understand) these are their references," he says. "By establishing these systems, I established a training philosophy around (them)."

He knew it wouldn't create a winner overnight but it seems to be paying off now.

The team's latest triumph is their win over Russia at the recent World League final tournament in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The win helped boost Canada seven spots to 11th in the world rankings, with Russia still at No. 2, behind Brazil.

Although Canada ended up losing to Brazil (and Russia bounced back to win the title), 2013 saw Canada's best performance ever in World League play with a record of 9-3, the latest sign a program that languished for a decade is picking up steam.

"What I've been able to do is trap some teams because they think they're so good," Hoag says of his upstart Canadians.

Hoag has spent most of his life playing or coaching volleyball. As a player, he's already been inducted into the Quebec Volleyball Hall of Fame.

He played on the national team from 1981 to 1986 and on the 1984 Olympic team that finished fourth (Canada's best to date).

He helped Canada win silver at the 2003 World University Games and gold at the 1984 Commonwealth volleyball championships.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2013 D4

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