Volleyball Canada


Coach Profile: Gino Brousseau

“One thing I’ve learned over time is to trust the process, never lose sight of your goals and never move too quickly.”

In 1992, Gino Brousseau was a star player for the men’s national volleyball team. Twenty-eight years later, he’s heading back to the Olympics – this time as the assistant coach.

Brousseau is the head coach of the Laval University Rouge et Or men’s volleyball team, joining the team in 2010 as an assistant coach. The school is also where he played himself from 1987 to 1990, helping the school to its first-ever Canadian championship in 1990.

He went on to play professionally right after university, playing for Fréjus and Asnières Volley 92 in France from 1990 to 1994. He spent the next three years with the Suntory Sunbirds in Japan. He then returned to France, spending time with Cannes, Poitiers, and Paris Volley, helping his team to five French Championships and four French Cups.

With the national team, Brousseau spent 16 years wearing the red and white, competing in three cycles of the World League, the World Championship, the World Cup, and the World University Games. After his playing career was wrapped up, it wasn’t long before he was behind the bench, getting his coaching career started.

After building up his coaching resume and working with Laval, Team Canada came calling. He started out coaching the junior national team for two years, including the 2017 World Championships.

Former Canadian head coach Stéphane Antiga offered Brousseau a position with the Canadian team, but he turned it down. After getting the offer again a few years later, Brousseau accepted as the men’s team geared up for an Olympic push.

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

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

Gino Brousseau: When I retired in 2002-03 after playing 13 years in Europe and Japan, I returned to Quebec to settle with my family. After a few months off and away from volleyball, Pascal Clément offered me an opportunity to get involved with the Rouge et Or. I wasn’t involved for very long, because I had other obligations that meant I couldn’t give as much time as I had hoped to. About a year later, Rock Picard, who is in charge of the structure at CÉGEP Limoilou, asked if I’d be interested in coaching a team of young players. With more time on my hands, I accepted. I have to say, that was one of my best experiences coaching. What a great school. A few years later I was the new assistant to Pascal Clément while still getting involved with different summer programs. We’ve spent the last 11 years working together and in 2020, it’s with great honour that I succeed him. 

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

GB: I’m a very lucky person because throughout my journey as an athlete and a coach, I’ve been able to lean on a number of people with incredible leadership and knowledge. Like now with the national team, I’m lucky enough to work with Glenn Hoag and Dan Lewis. Their generosity and their ethic have allowed me to reach new heights as a coach and as an individual. Naturally, Pascal Clément, who has been not only a colleague but a long-time personal friend, has been a very influential person for me. The widespread coaching experience and passion that he’s passed onto me were very important in my coaching development.         

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

GB: The most difficult thing for me has been balancing my passion and my personal life. I’m a passionate person, so it’s hard for me to separate things when I’m in the thick of the season. I’m lucky enough to have a life partner who’s been with me from the very start of my passion for volleyball; she’s helped me a lot to find that balance. We’ll just say that I’m getting better with time, even though I sometimes stumble.

VC: How does coaching differ from playing?

GB: I would say the biggest difference would be the level of responsibility. Being a coach is both very demanding and very gratifying. The requirements of elite coaching require you to use management skills, be able to plan and organize, and even manage human relations. You have to create an environment that brings all of these abilities together in order to ensure your team is happy and performing as well as possible.

VC: Do you think your lengthy playing career helped you prepare for being a coach? 

GB: Of course! The experience I’ve accumulated throughout my career helps me better understand what our athletes encounter throughout their own journey. It equips them to face different realities. However, I think it is important to share this knowledge and these values using the right words.

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

GB: For me one of the most important aspects of coaching is the human aspect. I’ve always made it a point to respect the athletes throughout the process. There is nothing more validating for a coach than taking a group and helping it realize its full potential individually and collectively. What I take away at the end of these experiences is the friendship built over time with these athletes.

VC: You’ve seen the men’s national team rise up to become a regular Olympic threat. As a player and now coach, what have you noticed in the rise of the team?

GB: I’ve seen the culture within the program change quite a bit. After a number of great performances as a team over the last few years, the athletes have come to realize that they can compete with any team in the world. There is a lot of work and effort that’s gone into the last few years on behalf of the athletes and the staff to change their mindset.

VC: How did this rise happen?

GB: The arrival of Glenn Hoag has been a big factor in the success of the program. He brought to the program a more international expertise on how to do things. Thanks to his European experience, he was able to identify the technical, tactical and physical aspects we need to work on to find success at the international level. With the growth of their performance over the last few years, the team has been invited to some of the best international competitions. Thanks to these experiences and this visibility, they’ve become better and have signed better contracts. We also can’t forget the contribution that universities and the provincial associations have made to put in place structures to better support future talents.

VC: From being named to the Provincial and National Hall of Fame, playing and coaching at the Olympics, what’s next for you? What are you looking to add to your volleyball resume?

GB: Like I’ve said, I am a very lucky person, I’ve been able to live many great experiences thanks to volleyball. My goal moving forward is to help my athletes live as many positive experiences as possible through our sport.

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?

GB: I’m a sports fan in general, so I love to follow the different tournaments. I also love to watch a good movie. However, when I really want to return to my roots and restore my balance, I head out to my fishing camp. There’s nothing better in my eyes than the quiet of nature to disconnect and recover.

VC: Do you have any advice for new coaches?

GB: The athletes should always be our focus, it’s a privilege to be able to accompany a group of athletes. As a coach it’s important to demonstrate passion and professionalism when working with athletes. We’re there to give and not to take. One thing I’ve learned over time is to trust the process, never lose sight of your goals and never move too quickly. Also, it’s important never to be afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes you need to make mistakes in order to learn.

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

GB: Making the jump from player to coach was not easy for me. I wish I were more patient and in control when I started out. When I started coaching, I was still thinking like a player. With time I learned to channel my emotions and my reactions, even though I’m not always perfect.  Today I realize that this was the path I had to take.

As the saying goes: “The journey never ends, only the destination changes.”

Interview by Josh Bell