NAIT Names Two New Volleyball Head Coaches
By John Short
04/30/12... Edmonton, AB... Two familiar Alberta volleyball faces now decorate the coaching lines for the NAIT Ooks.
New men's coach Doug Anton, the replacement for Simon Fedun, visited the NAIT campus on Friday for a face-to-face meeting with staff and some of the players who will line up for him in the fall.
Lorne Sawula agreed last week to a one-year term with the women's Erminia Russo Thorpe takes a leave of absence for family reasons.
Both of the replacements carry impressive resumes starting as players with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Anton spent recent years in Ottawa, working with the national volleyball program and at Algonquin College while pursuing a masters degree in sports management. He believes the quality of Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference volleyball is second to none among Canadian institutions.
""Traditionally, this conference has been the gold standard in college volleyball" he said. "It seems the results have slipped a little in the last few years (Ontario's Humber College is the 2012 men's champ and a B.C. team captured the 2011 title) but it is possible to get back on top fairly quickly."
The new men's coach recalled the Bears' success in the long-established University of Alberta gym and said he looks forward to games in coming seasons at the GO Centre on the university's south campus: "I had a tour awhile ago and the new centre is quite exciting."
Sawula played the Canada Games team in 1967 during a three-run as the Bears captured a national university title and a couple of silver medals.
In 1971, he started a three-year term as head coach, then travelled extensively to coach elsewhere in Canada and in foreign lands before returning to his alma mater in 1993, working as Laurie Eisler's assistant and co-coach with the Pandas until 2000.
Sawula also has coached the University of Windsor Lancers swim team and the Dalhousie Tigerettes female volleyball team before winning a national championship with the UBC Thunderbirds men's team in 1976.
A wide range of duties and opportunities followed quickly:
* Technical director of the Canadian Volleyball Association from 1977 to 1982, while also coaching the Ottawa Gee Gees female team;
* Several positions on international committees and commissions from 1978 to 1994;
* High performance director for men's and women's national teams in 1988.
Somehow, he found time to coach the Canadian national women's team from 1983 to 1988 and again from 2001 to 2005and led international programs in Switzerland, Australia, Sweden and Costa Rica.
In all, he participated in a whopping six world championship, seven world university games and two Pan American games as well as appearances in the Olympics and the Canada Cup.
His most recent international experience was a stint as mentor coach of the Costa Rica female team that qualified for the 2010 world championships.
Before accepting that post in Central America, he started the volleyball program at Edmonton's Vimy Ridge Sports Academy and developed an organization -- ASPIRE volleyball training -- that provides technical training and coaching for athletes 10 to 18.
Small wonder that Sawula is known in many areas as "Dr. Volleyball.
And also small wonder that NAIT's head of athletics, Linda Henderson, was ecstatic at the hiring of both Sawula and Anton to lead programs that improved markedly with Fedun and Russo Thorpe at the helm.