On Nov. 3, Brock University Athletic and Recreation Department announced the return of its men’s volleyball program after a 15-year absence. With the hiring of head coach Doug Hanes, the 2016-17 season will be the first time Brock will have a men’s team walk onto the Bob Davis Gymnasium since the 2000-01 season, when the team finished with a 23-14 overall record.
“We have the perfect fit to jump-start our men’s volleyball program,” Brock’s Assistant Athletic Director Chris Critelli said in the official release. “Doug brings with him the experience of a veteran coach, the enthusiasm of creating a team and starting fresh, as well as the network to recruit some talented student athletes.”
Hanes has not coached volleyball in the Ontario University Association (OUA) league since 2004 when he coached the Waterloo Warriors men’s team. He spent six seasons with the Warriors, and his teams had winning records every year, which included two OUA West finals.
The long-time volleyball coach has experience at both the high school and collegiate level. Hanes won back-to-back OFSAA championships in 1995 and 1996 as a coach. He’s won provincial championships as a club coach as well. Back in his playing days, Hanes won OUA Championships with Guelph University.
“I am honoured to be selected as the new head coach to start a brand new program,” said Hanes. “It’s one thing to coach at a club and high school level, but it’s another getting back into the OUA level.”
Hanes will begin recruiting for the team next season. He knows graduating high school students are beginning to make their decisions on which university to attend, so he hopes to get out there and get the best volleyball talent as soon as possible. Hanes will also be looking at possible veteran university players, who might be interested in transferring schools.
“The first year I hope to put a competitive team on the court and build a successful program moving forward,” said Hanes in the media release. “I would invite any university bound volleyball players to seriously consider Brock as a new school that will be competing for a CIS National Championship in men’s volleyball.”
Throughout his coaching career in the OUA, Hanes was unable to win an OUA championship, and Brock never won either when the men’s program existed. With a fresh start for both parties, and a clear vision, Hanes and the new program have a positive path towards a first for both.
Hanes and the men’s program will also be welcoming students currently attending Brock to come tryout for the team next season. Hanes has been in contact with Brock’s intramural members who run men’s volleyball to get the word out about the program and leave the opportunity open to students.
Hanes will also be attending the remaining volleyball intramurals at Brock to scout any talent — intramural volleyball playoffs are set to begin in the next couple of weeks.
If there’s enough talent this year at Brock for men’s volleyball, Hanes will look into creating a club team that can enter volleyball tournaments with current Brock students. In doing so, it gives Hanes the ability to allow potential athletes for next year to get a chance to see university-level play.
“When starting a program, it is about having a vision of the style and level of play I want on the court,” said Hanes as we sat watching the Brock women’s volleyball team prepare for their match versus McMaster this past Saturday. “If you have a vision, you can develop a program right away.”
Hanes will also begin looking for a staff to build around him before the 2016-17 season gets going. In recruiting and scouting for players, Hanes has ambitious plans to look within Brock, around Ontario and across Canada, and even to look internationally.
He has also begun watching other university teams to see the level of play OUA volleyball has reached since 2004. Hanes has already watched University of Toronto, Guelph, McMaster, and York’s teams play this season.
Since accepting the role at Brock, Hanes has been impressed with the school’s administrative staff, especially athletics. Hanes could not help but praise the job Rob Cargnelli, Robert Hilson and Chris Critelli have done with athletics at Brock.
“Brock is looking to expand [athletics], unlike other schools,” said Hanes. “You can tell the school has done a great job with money management to be able to bring the program back, and advance in other areas.”
The coach also said that Brock has a collegiate feeling that other schools don’t, calling the school, “the best kept secret” in the Canadian university circuit. He remembers Brock during his playing days with Guelph, and can really see the growth of the university.
Now, with both a men’s and women’s volleyball program, Brock is in a good position to becoming a strong destination for future volleyball players. Hanes as well as the women’s volleyball coach, Dale Ann Melnick, are both highly respected coaches around the volleyball community, so future volleyball players will be directed to Brock as an option.
Hanes also hopes the two program grow alongside each other. If both programs can be successful at the same time it will only raise the profile that much higher.
When sitting in the stands for Saturday’s women’s game, Hanes was impressed with how the bleachers were packed with students and community members. It was an atmosphere that Hanes said he was very impressed with. He could see the importance Brock students and the Niagara region places in its athletics.
As the days go on from here, Hanes knows that in order for the men’s program to become successful it is going to take time. “Realistically … in our third year,” said Hanes when asked about how many years it will take to make the program competitive for a championship. He did say that the program could get lucky sooner than anticipated. Hanes took a last place team to the playoffs the following year.
When asked about what made him get back into coaching volleyball at the university level, Hanes said, “There’s nothing else like it in sports.”
Earlier this year, Trent University was also approved for a men’s and women’s volleyball program. They too will join the OUA in the 2016-17 season. For Brock, their approval from the OUA came back in October, but the announcement was held off until the Athletic and Recreation Department was able to find a head coach. With Hanes now settling into his role, and getting a taste of athletics at Brock, the men’s volleyball journey can start.
With both Brock and Trent adding a men’s program to next season, the OUA will have a total of 13 teams across the province. The league could possibly expand to two divisions within the league, instead of the current one division format.
McMaster (first), Queen’s (ninth), and York (tenth) are the only OUA teams ranked nationally at the moment, something Hanes and Brock will look to achieve in the near future.