Print Edition: June 17, 2015
Mike Gilray was hired in May as the new coach of the women’s volleyball team after over a decade of coaching volleyball in BC, including leading provincial teams to the podium at the Canada Summer Games, the Western Canada Summer Games, and the BC Summer Games. He has also coached at both the secondary and post-secondary level in both BC and Alberta.
How did you start coaching?
As a teacher, one of the areas I was excited about in my profession was being able to coach the students. I started coaching volleyball during my practicum in Edmonton. My first coaching job in BC was assistant coach at Walnut Grove Secondary School. My first head-coaching job was at White Rock Christian [School].
So did you play a lot of volleyball growing up?
It wasn’t one of my favourite sports. I played a lot of hockey and baseball, growing up in Ontario. It was going into my teaching profession that hockey and baseball weren’t offered at a lot of high schools, so I knew I would most likely be coaching a different sport. In Alberta, where I went to school, was strong in volleyball, and it got me excited about that game. I’ve spent 15 years honing my skills and being mentored by Ryan Hofer at Trinity Western University.
What’s it like stepping into this position at UFV?
I’m super excited; it’s my first time coaching at this level. I’ve been assistant-coaching at the university level previous to this. It’s been pretty difficult starting very late in the season and trying to get some recruits to commit to the program. My head doesn’t really turn off, so I’m always thinking about the recruits that I may be bringing in. It’s very much a full-time job on top of my full-time teaching, so it’s been busy.
Do you find a change in the coaching from a high school level to university level?
I’ve coached a lot of the university level already so I have eight years’ experience working with university athletes. Before that, for the last 12 years I’ve coached a lot of U18 [under 18], so the kids that are graduating and moving on to university. I worked with the Fraser Valley Volleyball Club and a program called the Blitz. I believe 95 per cent of my athletes went on to play post-secondary.
In high school, I try to work with the youngest groups, just to give them foundational skills and then make the job easier for my other coaches. Then I try to mentor those coaches at my school so that I can start to build a volleyball program and get kids loving the sport of volleyball. That’s happened in the past few years here, where I’ve had a few of my old athletes come back and start coaching. We’re slowly starting to see more kids play club volleyball outside of high school.
Is there anything that you’re hoping to achieve this season or in the future with the team?
I would love to get the team back to the national championships. Depending on some recruits, it’s taking a lot longer than I may want it to take. I spoke with the top coach in PACWEST last year, Chris Dahl, who had some wise words from a mentor when he first started: “It’s going to take four or five years to get your program where you want it to be at.”
I think as young coaches we get caught up in wanting it to happen right away and thinking we can get it done in two years or even in the first year coming in. Realistically, it takes four or five years to start implementing the things you want to see in your program and starting to get all the athletes you want to have come in. Hearing from him and other coaches I have worked with before, I think I’m in a similar boat that Chris was, and I feel like I want that to happen right away this year and give the girls that are already at UFV a great experience.
With biographical notes from UFV Athletics.