List of Inductees 2020
John Barrett didn’t begin his volleyball playing career until he was 16 years old in 1978 but he proved to be a quick study due to his outstanding athleticism. Despite only having played the sport for a few years, John was selected to the Junior National Team in 1980. As a member of that team, John gained his first international experience competing in the World Junior Championships in Colorado Springs in 1981.
Following his high school years, John was selected to the National Senior Team in 1981. He later competed in World Championships in Argentina in 1982 and the World Student Games in 1983 where the Canadian men won a silver medal, losing a closely fought match to Cuba. Perhaps the highlight of his national team career was competing at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games where the team finished in fourth place.
John also played CIAU men's volleyball for the Calgary Dinosaurs before transferring to play for the Manitoba Bisons with whom he won a national championship in 1984/85 while being named the tournament's most valuable player.
As a member of the National Team, John competed in the World Student Games in 1985 and the World Championships in 1990 before rejoining the National Team in 1996 to help the team as they worked towards qualifying for the Olympic Games. John later would go on to play professional volleyball in Italy and France for 14 years with 9 different teams. He and his teammates won the European Cup with Bologna in 1986 and the French Cup with Bordeaux in 1991.
John is generally credited with introducing the spike serve to the sport of volleyball. The story took place in Shanghai in 1981 when John noticed a Chinese player doing a standing overhead spin serve, but he would take a little jump straight up and snap the ball over his head. That was the ignition moment for John, he saw him do it, and thought to himself, “wow, I bet that could be done with an approach.” John started messing around with it in practice, and the general consensus amongst his teammates was that it could never be done with enough consistency to make it a viable skill. What drove him to really become obsessed with it was being told that it couldn’t be done. Against Japan in that Shanghai tournament, John pulled out the spike serve for the first time without telling anybody he was going to do it. His very first serve got blocked by a Japanese player in the front row at a time when you could block serves. Coach Ken Maeda immediately called a timeout, and asked John in his typical Ken manner “what was that”?
John would say to Ken, “I think I can do it”. Coach Maeda responded, “Do it - every time”. This completely freed John up to pursue using his spike serve. Without the greenlight from Ken, it was never going to happen. The serve really took off when John went to play in Bologna Italy in 1985. One of his team’s first matches was played against Panini Modena, one of the very best teams in Italy at the time. This team was coached by the legendary Julio Velasco. John and his team won 3-0 and John had 9 direct aces. From that point on the spike serve became an ever present point scoring force in the game of volleyball.
John is currently entering his 11th season as the Head Coach of the University of Toronto Blues Volleyball team and continues to give back to the sport in that capacity. In addition, John served as the Head Coach for 2003 Men’s and Women’s Beach Teams at 2003 Pan American games and was Head Coach of the National Junior Team in 2014/15 when the team competed in the 2015 World junior Championships in Tijuana, Mexico. John was also named as the Head Coach for the Canadian squad at the World Student Games 2015 and the Head Coach of the National “B” Team in 2018. John has been recognized twice as the OUA Coach of the Year.
We are honoured to induct John Barrett as an athlete in the Volleyball Canada Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding career as an athlete, coach and innovator.