By Daniel Rocchi
When the men’s volleyball team made history with their OUA Final Four semi-final win against the Queen’s Gaels in March, it wasn’t all good news.
The team was headed to just the second OUA championship game in program history, and their semi-final victory guaranteed them their first-ever national championship berth.
But the Rams would be playing for provincial gold without an important member of their team.
“We’re celebrating, and we know we’re going to nationals and we’re playing for an OUA championship the next night, and I had to tell the players, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to be here’,” said Dustin Reid.
It was Reid’s first season as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams after men’s coach Mirek Porosa took a leave of absence before season began. Reid would be with the women’s squad at their own semi-final contest in Toronto against the Western Mustangs on the same night that the men would face McMaster for OUA gold in Hamilton.
It was a difficult moment for Reid, and an important lesson.
“I had to accept that I can’t make everybody happy, and I can’t be everything to everybody.”
The women’s team won that semi-final game to advance to the gold medal game. Both squads lost in their respective championship matches to send the Rams home with a pair of OUA silvers. This year, the stakes are higher.
With the men coming off their first national tournament appearance and the women’s team set to host nationals in March, Reid will have his hands full as the head coach of two teams that have aspirations for both provincial and national titles.
For Reid, now in his ninth year as the women’s head coach, the key to success will be sharing the workload.
“I’ve had to realize that I have to give control to other [people] at times,” he said. “I’ve had to trust others and take away some of the aspects that may have been most satisfying for me in the past.
“It’s better for the team and better for me to share some of those.”
Reid will rely heavily on his assistant coaches to coordinate the season. Matthew Harris has returned with the men’s squad, while former Queen’s Gaels player Becky Zeeman joins the women’s team as both a player and assistant coach.
Zeeman will be on the court during women’s games, so Reid will be with the women’s squad if a conflict prevents him from coaching both teams like it did in last year’s Final Fours. With that eventuality in mind, he said there may be coaching experiments on the men’s bench.
“[Matt and I] may share the duties sometimes, he may be the head coach sometimes and me the assistant,” said Reid. “We have some different options that we’re going to try there and we’re going to see how the players respond.”
Regardless of how the year unfolds, Reid believes last season’s experiences have made him a more capable coach for this one.
“It’s forced me to consider a lot of things that I didn’t consider before. It’s forced me to be more efficient in how I plan and how I allocate my assistant coaches and how I trust others,” he said. “It’s been a challenge that I never conspired to chase. When you’re put in a situation where you’re forced to do your best and serve others, that’s been rewarding and been a good learning experience.”