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McKay has a few choice words to say

Two-sport star must decide which to play in university

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You could say that Josh McKay has grown up with a volleyball in one hand and a basketball in the other.

Though both games have special places in McKay's heart, the Grade 12 Dakota Collegiate student is pondering his sports future and volleyball is winning the day.

The son of two university coaches, McKay has had the unique experience of being exposed to both basketball and volleyball at a high level since the day he was born.

"I've always been in a gym, around both those sports as far back as I can remember, going to my mom's teams' practices and my dad's teams' practices," said McKay, a 6-foot-3 setter who was the tournament most valuable player at the 2010 Boston Pizza provincial boys' AAAA volleyball championship with the champion Dakota Lancers. Now that it's basketball season, he's a forward with the Lancers' varsity boys' team. "I was really fortunate to have been around all those great players."

Josh's mom is Tanya McKay, the University of Winnipeg Wesmen women's basketball coach, Manitoba Basketball Hall of Famer and three-time all-Canadian (1989, 1990, 1991) when she played for the Wesmen. His dad is Larry McKay, the University of Winnipeg Wesmen men's volleyball coach who has coached Wesmen teams to seven national medals, is a two-time national coach of the year (1992-93 and 2001-02) is also Canada's national men's B volleyball team head coach.

"There have been people who tried to pressure me (about choosing a sport) but my parents always do such a great job of taking that away. They've always said, there's no pressure on you to play either volleyball or basketball or to be good at it," Josh said.

"I think a big thing for me was (after a game) if I brought it up, they'd talk about it. If I wanted my dad to critique my game, I just ask him. But if I don't say anything, he won't say anything at all. When it looked like I was starting to like volleyball, my mom just laughed and she said she knew I was going to be a volleyball guy."

Though Tanya and Larry's marriage ended a few years ago, the two remained partners in parenting and maintained a united front and devoted support system for their son.

"Josh has played for just tremendous coaches who Tanya and I have trusted totally and who have been very good for his overall development and we tried not be in a position of undermining what they were doing," Larry said.

"Growing up in gyms like this, Tanya and I have both said this, he's had a bunch of big brothers and sisters and he's looked up to those people for a long time."

Tanya said she and Larry exposed Josh to many sports in past years including soccer, baseball and flag football but he was drawn to the two games he saw the most.

"He happened to see the white ball and orange ball a lot," Tanya said. "What I see is that he's got a combination of the two of us that I hope has helped him along the way. Larry has a very calm, composed demeanour whereas Mom is a little more emotional and we've seen both of those come out of him in sports," Tanya said, noting Josh started school a year early. "We just wanted him to find something that he'd enjoy and embrace school at the same time and be a student athlete. He's handled everything extremely well and I know Larry and I both feel blessed he's grown up so well."

With a number of universities recruiting Josh in volleyball, his parents say they are ready to let him choose what he thinks will be the best fit.

"He's raised a couple of parents and he's still working on that," Larry said.

Disorder in the court!

In the early years when both his mom and dad were working, Josh McKay was in the unique position of being able to hang out with his parents at their repective practices. As it's easy for any little kid to get fired up in the gym, Tanya McKay and Larry McKay remember their son sometimes took the opportunity to wreak some havoc.


Larry's favourite "Josh mayhem moment" -- "When Josh was really small, about three or four, we'd be in our huddle talking, and all these (6-feet-plus) guys wouldn't be able to see him, he'd run through and hit one of them in the crotch! That became a common thing, and guys would always be worried, 'OK, where is he?' My alumni players bring that one up a lot!"


Tanya's favourite "Josh mayhem moment" -- "He was about four years old and both my team and Larry's team were practising at the same time (a thick curtain divided the basketball and volleyball courts). He was running between the two practices jumping in our ball bins, throwing balls out and letting them roll on the ground. He'd get in trouble with his dad and come do the same thing on my side, send basketballs rolling through all the girls during drills, and then he'd take off again!"

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 27, 2010 C6

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