U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our new interview series “Getting to know…”
Name: Pat Hennelly
School: Thompson Rivers University
Sport: Men’s volleyball
Position: Head coach
Seniority: 14 years
Previous school/position: Assistant coach, Northern Arizona University (NAU) women’s volleyball
Hometown: Winlaw, B.C.
1. How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of TRU?
I started coaching in my hometown, with the Kootenay Volleyball Club. We were fortunate to have a great group of athletes and won the 1992 Western Canadian Championships. From that I coached Team B.C. and was asked to assist with UBC men’s volleyball, then UBC women's and finally as an assistant at NAU women's volleyball. From NAU I took the interim position at TRU in 2005.
2. Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?
My high school coach Dave Olynyk (who still comes in to work with my team); Dale Ohman the former UBC men’s coach; Glenn Hoag who just finished with the Canadian national team and Ken Olynyk, the former TRU athletic director.
3. How would you describe your coaching style?
A work in progress! Really working on process over outcome for the program and my personal coaching perspective.
4. Which coach do you admire the most, and why?
I still admire Dave Olynyk, my high school coach. He has a very good eye for error detection and correction and patience to work athletes through technical challenges.
5. What is the most “out-of-the-box” thing you’ve done as a coach?
When I was at UBC with the men’s volleyball team, we switched the setter from the right side of the court to the left. It is completely opposite for almost all the skills and took a lot of re-training in every position. We worked extremely hard, and many volleyball people felt it would never work. We eventually hit No. 1 in the country running that system.
6. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?
Starting here at TRU from the first year in U SPORTS, seeing our program go from last place to bationally-ranked (highest was No.4 in country), and achieving some success (four Canada West bronze medals, one U SPORTS bronze medal). Best of all is seeing our athletes move on successfully to national teams, professional volleyball and careers.
7. What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents?
The university experience is a marathon, not a sprint. Think long term, and be prepared to adapt and change over the course of your university career.
8. How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values, etc. have remained the same?
I work less from a punishment fear of failure model that I grew up with playing and early in my assistant coaching career. I still believe that achievement comes from working hard, and that work ethic will serve you well in life.
9. What do you enjoy doing when you are not in coaching mode?
I really enjoy spending time with family and friends, cooking and entertaining. I have a big garden and enjoy growing heirloom garlic, tomatoes and peppers.
10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you as a coach?
In my second year as head coach, I submitted the wrong line up…twice!