Thursday, September 29, 2022

Canada's Shannon Winzer shines as the only female head coach in the women's volleyball world. CBC Sports

Between balls bouncing off the court, sneakers and ear-beating music at the Women’s World Volleyball Championships, there’s one thing Canada head coach Shannon Winzer may not have seen or heard.

Another female head coach.

As surprising as it sounds today and in age, of 24 teams at world championships in the Netherlands and Poland, coach Winzer stands alone.

“Working in this space, I think it’s a great thing for other women to see that it’s possible, not just because I’m a woman, but because I’m a woman who is married and has a young family. ,” said Winzer. “There’s a way to make it work. I hope being a little more visible will allow other women to do the same.”

Canada captain and veteran middle blocker Jennifer Cross says Winjar has brought a dynamism she didn’t have before.

“Being the head of a women’s team, for us, shows that no matter whether you have a family or kids, you can still pursue your dreams to the ultimate level. This is something that our programs do. Has been tricked through,” said Cross, a 30-year-old native of Scarborough, Ont.

“Plus she’s like one of us. She was a player herself so she has a vision of what it’s like to play pro, and what it’s like to be away from your family. It’s something we can bond with.” ”

Winzer, with her children during FIVB Volleyball Nations League competition, owes a large part of her success to her family. (Dave Holland/Volleyball Canada)

communication and delegation skills

Cross notes Winzer’s communication and delegation skills as particular strengths.

“Shannon does a great job of having a really great feedback loop with us, keeping us involved in the process. I feel like I can go to her about anything in life or in volleyball.

“It’s nice to have a coach you trust in a way that not only cares about you as an athlete, but someone who cares about you as a person.”

Make no mistake, coaching is an intense, all-consuming job. From goal setting and planning, technical and tactical details, personality and travel balance, practice preparation and in-game maneuvering, this is a commitment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Winzer credits the support she has received from Volleyball Canada, her husband Mark, daughter Riley, and sons Campbell and Brooklyn, 11, 9, and 7, for helping make it work.

“Coaching is intense, isn’t it? It’s nonstop. Once I let go of the fact that my marriage and my family life and my upbringing had to look like everyone else’s. Once I accepted that, it was I was fine. That doesn’t mean it’s better or worse, it’s just different.”

While she is well known in the international volleyball circuit, an official, opposition coach or media member approaches her male assistants, assuming they are the head coach.

“Yeah. It’s depressing. They’re just assuming. It excites me. But I have broad shoulders, I can take that.”

“I always say: ‘Men have to prove they can’t coach and I have to prove I can coach.'”

Winzer is well known on the international volleyball circuit. (Volleyball Canada)

playing in europe

Originally from Port Coquitlam, BC, Winzer suited up for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds before playing professionally in Europe and Australia. From there, she transitioned into coaching, eventually guiding the women’s national team and Volleyball Australia’s Center of Excellence.

Winzer returned to Canada in 2019, where she debuted as head coach of the NextGen team and assistant coach with the senior national team. In December 2020, when mentor Tom Black stepped down due to personal reasons, he got a head coaching job. She is the program’s first female head coach in nearly 40 years.

Having become familiar with the program in his first year, his main goals for the team this season were to stay in the prestigious 16-team Volleyball Nations League (VNL), improve world ranking points and make it to the second round. World Championships for the first time in the history of the team.

He has completed two of them so far, improving his VNL record to 4-12 including a win over powerhouse Turkey and some close games against other top nations. As for the ranking, they are now ranked 16th in the world.

But the biggest goal is to bring the team back to the Olympics for the first time since 1996, be it Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028. To do so means changing the mindset of the team.

“I think playing VNL this year was the first time a lot of players went, wow, 2024 is really possible. We were able to play with some great teams and obviously beating Turkey was big for us. And when You being able to play with big teams and beat big teams, it was like the first time the players really started to believe.

“In the past, I think there was this history of wanting to play for Canada, but it’s not good enough. You have to be an Olympian. And I think with VNL, we’re starting to feel that.” You start to realize how far we are or how close we are. And there has to be a change in mindset. It’s not enough just to play for Canada, you have to be one of the best in the world.”

Cross agrees.

“This is the best chance we’ve got to qualify [for the Olympics] I’ve been part of the program ever since,” said Krauss, who was part of the team that missed qualifying for Tokyo.

“We’re not happy to be here, we’re here to compete and win and that’s the change of mind. We’re not satisfied with winning a set or two, we want to win matches.”

Canadian volleyball players celebrate during a three-set win over Kazakhstan at the Women’s World Championships in Poland Thursday. (@Andre_SilvaRS/Twitter)

shiny hole

Of course, to be the best in the world, there are a few dazzling areas in the game that Winzer and his staff are focusing on.

Passing remains a painful place for Canadian women. They were among the worst countries in passing efficiency in the VNL in the last two seasons.

“I don’t think it’s something we’re going to fix for 2024, but it’s a work in progress.”

He also had a high serving error percentage, especially in his tight games, so he has made adjustments to his approach, ranging from being completely aggressive to developing a serving identity that players can work with on their own. are responsible.

“We set some minimum standards in our gyms about what error percentage you have to fall under, what percentage of float you have to hit and what percentage are you hitting your target. So far our serve error percentage has dropped tremendously . I really see that it is paying off.”

It’s clear that Winzer loves what she sees in her squad, which she calls a mix of character, competitiveness, fearlessness, and ability.

And it is also clear that she is in love with coaching once she gets into it.

“Coaching is a problem that is never solved. And that’s what keeps me out there that I’ll never know everything. You’ll never be enough. And that’s probably what will eventually make me retire.”

“But it coached me. Once I try it, it’s a whole world I have no idea about, and every year it’s a challenge for me to be better than last year.”

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