New women’s volleyball head coach
By Davie Wong, Sport Editor
It’s nearly volleyball season once again. In little more than a month, the gyms at Douglas College will be filled with fans and spectators, watching the Royal’s volleyball teams do battle. While the men have undergone some large changes, the women have been a little quieter this off-season. That’s been because the team has been going over some rather large internal changes. Gone is the flamboyant coaching stylings of Kyra Iannone. Replacing her will be Jeff Ross.
The Saskatchewan-born First Nations coach comes to the Royals with a unique swagger, and a coaching portfolio to back it up. Although not long, Ross’ portfolio is deep. As he tells us, his initial journey into coaching was something that just kind of happened. “I fell into coaching. I liked the sport. I was in my first year of college when the coach asked me to coach a club team, and I did, so that just kind of happened. I just progressed from there.” It just happened to be that Ross enjoyed coaching so much that after his second year of college, he took a break from schooling to focus on himself, and continued to coach while doing so.
After figuring out what he wanted to do, Ross made the move out west, heading to UBC in pursuit of a degree in kinesiology. While doing so, he took the opportunity to start playing again. He played for two years on the UBC squad while obtaining his undergraduate in kinesiology, with a minor in psychology. His time here in BC helped him establish himself as a volleyball player and coach. With no real opportunities to coach at a high level in his home province of Saskatchewan, Ross made his move to BC a permanent one.
He didn’t take long to find his spot in the volleyball community of Vancouver. Picked up as the head coach for West Point Grey’s senior girls volleyball team, Ross has since made other advancements, while still holding on to that position. Along with coaching high school, Jeff coaches at the Thunder Volleyball Club in Vancouver. He is also a coach for Volleyball BC. All of this and now taking on the responsibilities as a coach for the Royals may seem a lot, but Ross believes he can handle it. “Balancing time isn’t hard as long as you have good time management. It isn’t crazy at all.”
However, this is Ross’ first venture into the world of post-secondary coaching. As one might assume, coaching a post-secondary team is quite different than coaching a high school-level team, or even at a club. Ross sees it differently, though. “The only difference is some of the organization stuff like budgets, and the management of other things. Other than that, I’ve been head coaching at clubs and high schools for three or four years, and worked closely with the UBC head coach. Stepping into a post-secondary role is an easy transition for me, given how much I coach.”
Nevertheless, Jeff has some fairly large shoes to fill. Iannone spent the last five years building up the program her way, and her style. Last year, it all finally came together, and the team finished the highest in a long time. But for Ross, he believes that his hiring signaled a new start for the program, and that it’s now up to him to establish a new legacy. “I got hired into a new program, and I want to create my own pathway. I want to move forward with the program in the best way I see it going.”
While many would give Jeff Ross a year or two to really dig his feet into the program and the PACWEST, he intends on getting a running start at his time here at Douglas, and has set his goals to match that. “I want to make Douglas one of the best Volleyball programs in the PACWEST and in Canada […] We’ve instilled some new things in the program and whatnot, and we’re trying to make it as competitive as we can this year.”
He’ll have some help there from a fairly veteran team returning to the court. Notable figures returning to the team are: Juliana Penner, Autumn Davidson, Georgia Hurry, Claudia Corneil, and Lynnea Carr. Alongside them stand several newcomers who will be looking to earn their spot on the roster throughout the pre-season.
However, not on the list of returning players is a rather significant name. Last year’s PACWEST Rookie of the Year and overall stellar player Darby Dunn will not be returning to the court for the Royals. Instead, she has transferred to Stetson University to pursue her passion in beach volleyball.
Without her, the Royals are a fairly different team, but Ross believes that it’s unlikely her transfer will impact the team dynamic too heavily, as his roster is already solid, and can compete against any of the PACWEST teams that come at them this season.
While he prepares for the upcoming challenges this year, Ross can at least be assured that he has the team’s confidence. Fifth-year player Juliana Penner spoke on behalf of her team regarding the hiring of Ross. “The team is excited to have him. Jeff has the volleyball knowledge and abilities to help us achieve something special this year. As a whole we are embracing the change, and looking forward to what he will add to this program.”