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Coach Profile: Brock Davidiuk

"Always be ready to learn. Seek balance within your life."

While filling big shoes left by former Alberta Golden Bears coach Terry Danyluk, Brock Davidiuk has also brought a wealth of volleyball knowledge to the university’s sideline.

Davidiuk took over the head coaching reins of his former team in 2019, 13 years after graduating from the school. As a player with the Bears, he was named Championship MVP as he helped lead the team to a 2005 CIS National Championship title– a milestone he’ll be looking to re-create now that he’s behind the bench.

After his time with the university, Davidiuk went to have an impressive playing career professionally overseas, and a international career with the Canadian National Team, eventually serving as the team’s captain. He helped lead the squad to a berth at the 2010 FIVB World Championship.  

He re-joined the Bears in 2012 as a part-time volunteer, working his way up to assistant coach, then associate coach, and now serves as the head coach. In 2016, he completed his Masters of Coaching degree.

Volleyball Canada recently had a chance to talk with Davidiuk about his coaching career and some thoughts on coaching in the sport.

Volleyball Canada: You had a very successful playing career, from a National title with the Bears, playing overseas, and captaining the National team. Do you have a favourite or most memorable memory from your playing career?

Brock Davidiuk: That’s tough, there are a lot of them for me that range from when I fell in love with volleyball (I can remember the specific moment), small interactions with teammates or coaches, to big wins or even losses that lead to wins. 

If I had to pick one, I’d say winning the French Cup with Tours which qualified our team for Champions League. It wasn’t the actual win but the culmination of the season leading up to that qualifying tournament and my involvement in it. That year had a lot of adversity for our team and myself personally. It was one of the few teams I was on where I was the backup setter, I had played on so many teams where I was the starting setter and I had these amazing teammates that were back up. That year I felt so inspired by those guys and a responsibility to them and our starting setter to do my utmost to be ready every weekend in case I got the opportunity, which was few and far between because our starter was one of the best in the league and one of the French National Team setters at the time. I got the opportunity during that tournament and just had one of the best performances of my career, helping our team come back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in the semi then on to winning the final. 

VC: How did you transition into coaching?  Was it something that you always thought about?

BD: I never thought about it growing up or during my playing career, other than having a side gig of running individual and position specific clinics while playing. In 2012, I injured my back really badly while in Gatineau with Team Canada, the same summer my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. So I went home to be with her that summer and rehab. At the same time, I was struggling to find the motivation to continue with my pro career. I reached out to Terry Danyluk to ask if I could come out and help with the Bears once a week that fall. That really ignited something in me, to be back in the gym with the Bears, the culture, the family. The following summer with a healed back, I returned to Gatineau but it was time to retire from playing. The subsequent fall, Terry approached me with the idea of a succession plan. It was a real inflection point in my life as I was about to move out to the east coast to pursue other non-volleyball opportunities.

FYI, my mother is a warrior and recovered from breast cancer smiling through the whole thing and taking care of all of us. She has been in remission for nine years now. 

VC: Who supported you in the journey?  Do you have any mentors?

BD: By far my parents have been the biggest supporters of my volleyball career. But I can’t do what I do without my wife Holly Harper (2009 CanWest Player of the Year with the University of Calgary Dinos).  When getting into coaching I read an article by an NCAA coach, I think it was Mark Hebert, who said if you’re going to have a coaching career, you need to be single or married to a saint. So I lucked out with the latter!

I have many, many coaching mentors including coaches in our league, though the biggest of course would be Terry. Keith Hansen is someone I hold highly as a mentor as well. 

VC: How has your playing career helped you in your coaching career?

BD: Hard to say because I don’t have the perspective of not having a playing career. From what I can tell, to be a coach you need to have a wide ranging skill set, but that set can be comprised of several tools from varying backgrounds, one of my tools is my playing career, but it’s definitely not my only tool. 

VC: What has been the biggest hurdle for you in your coaching career and how did you get through it?

BD: I had a big opportunity a few years back that would have had me switching gears and our family moving. Dealing with that hurdle was hard and taxing, though I’m not sure it was a hurdle, just a decision that had to be made. I got through it on the profound and simple guidance from my wife.  

VC: You’ve had a very interesting start to your reign as head coach, including qualifying for Nationals in 2019-20, the eventual cancellation of Nationals, and the cancellation of the 2020-21 season. How have you, your staff, and your team managed the past year of unknowns?

BD: I think the athletes we have on our team currently have been poised to do something special in our league. The elements and characteristics that I see in these athletes and the culture they’ve invested in I think are the reason I see that. Those same elements and characteristics also have equated to their resilience during this difficult season. I think they are the reason we are all able to manage and thrive during this season as Golden Bears Volleyball. 

As staff, we are trying play our part in that with our planning and simplifying what we can focus on.  For us this year it is four things:

1.      Team member safety when it comes to avoiding COVID-19

2.      Having a great experience as a team

3.      Development towards long term goals in 2021-22

4.      Being "social ambassadors" during a tumultuous 2020 and beyond

VC: Do you have any particular interests outside of volleyball and coaching and if so, how do you find the balance between that interest and volleyball?

BD: My wife Holly and daughter Charlie are pretty interesting! So they’re my main priority. Other than family, my interests lie in the musical realm. I play guitar in a band (obviously not right now), so managing how that sits in my life is tricky, but again support from my wife and actually the other guys in the band, who are great, is how I manage that. 

VC: What are you most proud of in your coaching career?

BD: It’s hard to pin down one thing. Being named the Head Coach of GBV is pretty surreal. I was a volleyball nut and junkie growing up. When I was 13 my dad took me to watch a Bears game, with Terry coaching, Doug Bruce setting and Murray Grapentine at middle. Talk about some legends! Since then all I wanted to do was play volleyball for the Bears. To be the Head Coach now is wild, I’m proud of that, but I also think I’m incredibly lucky. Landing a coaching gig involves a tonne of good timing. 

VC: What is your ultimate goal in coaching?

BD: To honour the Golden Bears legacy that Terry has created is the one most at the forefront of my mind right now. As my goal setting goes, that may evolve to include other aspirations, but this is something I wake up with on my mind every day. 

VC: Do you have any advice for new coaches?

BD: Always be ready to learn. Seek balance within your life.

VC: What do you wish you had – advice, support, education, etc. - when you started?

BD: A better coach arm swing!!!

 

  •  Interview by Josh Bell. Photo: Brad Hamilton
  • Thanks to Mizuno Canada for its ongoing support of Volleyball Canada's coaching programs.