BRANDON – Interim head coach Kevin Neufeld has assembled his coaching staff with well-rounded volleyball minds from various backgrounds for the upcoming season.
Two of the four are familiar faces to the local volleyball scene, while two are up and coming coaches who bring experience both on the court and on the sidelines.
Bryce Wilson will serve on a fulltime basis for the 2017-18 Canada West season, while Derek Richels will help out for the duration of the pre-season with his wife expecting their second child.
“Those two are tremendous coaches and they are playing a vital role in growing the game,” said Neufeld.
The trio has worked together at countless championships including an international one back in 2010 when the Brandon-based Storm under-18 girls’ team represented Canada at the NORCECA women’s junior championship. Neufeld served as head of delegation while Richels and Wilson coached the club at the tournament in Tijuana, Mexico.
Current Bobcat star Mary Thomson got the chance to represent her city and country at the tournament. She believes BU can benefit by having all three working together once again.
“What these three bring together as a coaching group is remarkable. Brandon and western Manitoba has produced many athletes that have reached the U SPORTS level and that is a direct reflection of the coaching they have provided,” said Thomson.
Richels and Wilson credit Neufeld for helping fuel their drive for success. Wilson co-coached the Crocus Plainsmen to a 4A varsity girls’ provincial title in 2009 while Richels led Manitoba to a gold medal at the 2012 National Team Challenge Cup. Both echo the same sentiments when it comes to being Bobcats alongside Neufeld.
“I got my coaching start through Kevin and he has been a mentor for me. I have learned from him and when this offer came up to help coach, I did not have to think twice about it. I want to help Kevin be successful and return the favour,” said Wilson.
“It is nice to pay him back because he has done so much for my coaching career. He has always placed a lot of trust in me and has been a real good mentor,” added Richels.
Joining Neufeld, Richels and Wilson on staff are Tommy Sloan and Loren White.
Sloan comes to BU after serving as head coach of the Keyano Huskies women’s volleyball team in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. He also played on the men’s team at Keyano and was named an ACAC All Academic and conference all-star.
“The opportunity to coach student-athletes at the university level is exciting. We have a young and talented group of players and I am looking forward to working with them. I felt it was the right time in my life and in my development as a coach to make a move like this,” said Sloan. “I am really looking forward to working with Kevin and the rest of the staff.”
White is returning to the Bobcats for a third straight season as an assistant. Before BU, she played NCAA Division 1 volleyball with the University of Central Florida Knights.
“Loren might be the most critical of all of those,” said Neufeld.
“Having a female assistant was important to me, she is a true professional and connects well with our student-athletes.”
The Bobcats begin their 2017-18 regular season by visiting the Manitoba Bisons with opening weekend scheduled for October 20-21.
BU’s first home matches are October 27-28 against the Saskatchewan Huskies