Print Edition: June 18, 2014
The men’s volleyball team has just welcomed a new addition: head coach Kyle Donen. Having already been the men’s assistant coach, he’s eager to dive into the season and make this year one volleyball fans won’t forget.
Where did you get started?
My parents have been involved in volleyball since I can remember. Mom won national titles with the UBC team and my dad was involved in the group who put the first-ever posts in Kits Beach in Vancouver. Their passion for the game influenced my own passion. I have been playing volleyball since grade five. Once high school came around, volleyball became a primary. I then got the opportunity to play four years at university level at TRU in Kamloops. After I stopped playing, I then coached right away. I didn’t really take that much time away from it. It’s a long journey looking back on it now, but it’s been great at the same time.
What’s been the biggest challenge transitioning from assistant to head coach?
There’s more responsibility. It’s on you as a coach to make the program successful, make the players successful. It’s a challenge but I’m excited about it at the same time, it makes the experience more fun.
What do you plan to do differently?
I’m hoping I can bring that new voice and a different style that hopefully will get the guys to respond in a way that will allow them to have success. I believe the core group is intact, and after fine-tuning some of the strengths they have, I think we’ll have a lot of pieces in place that could make us successful this year. It’s a learning experience to me, too. I want to be able to find out what’s the best way to get these guys to be successful. If something that I say doesn’t work or doesn’t get them to respond in the right way, I might have to change it, try something different to make it work. Some might say their coaching styles are engraved in what they do and they’re always going to do that, but I think there’s reason to wanting to adapt to what’s there. If it doesn’t work this way, you just need to try something different to make the players successful the way you think they should be, or are capable of.
What’s your relationship with the players like?
I feel pretty confident in my ability to continue to make that relationship strong and I think that will be a key to me having success with teaching them and helping them reach their potential. If I can’t connect with them and I can’t communicate properly, I’m not doing my job and they’ll have a tougher time being successful ‘cause they’re frustrated that they can’t get their coach to understand them. There’s always room to better the relationship. You need to be able to have some sense of authority with the group, recognize when things need to get done, but there’s always going to be a time to joke and have some fun and I think that’s important.
What do you think has gotten in the way of the team reaching the playoffs?
It’s a very tight league. We need to find the mindset to want to be a winning team. If we can change that and realize our potential, I think the team has the capability to be a playoff team. I think the guys are excited about the new direction and the new opportunity. Hopefully that revives some of the energy that some of the players had when the team was last in the playoffs. I don’t see any reason why we’re not capable of getting there. I think it’s important to have little goals here and there. Each game is a goal to reach. Eventually those goals will build up to having the playoffs as another goal. We’re very capable of turning things around this season. I feel like a lot of the teams I’ve had have been successful because I’ve had a good relationship with them. The relationships that are built between coaches and players are something that will stay with them forever. I had a coach in high school that I still talk with. We even go out for drinks with each other. We reminisce about past volleyball games, of course, but we can also talk about things outside of volleyball. You learn the good and the bad from any coach that you’ve had and that’s important to be able to take with you wherever you go, even outside of volleyball.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.