The Laval Rouge et Or women’s volleyball team began the 2019-20 season with a new head coach in Danny Da Costa – a former assistant with the Canadian national team and the Montréal Carabins as well as bench boss of the StFX X-Women.
Before joining the Laval program, Da Costa excelled on the varsity stage with the Carabins. With a bachelor’s in management from HEC Montréal, the team's new leader has over 20 years of experience in the sports world, at the club, college, varsity and national levels.
In the world of high-performance sport, when a coach joins a new organization, he brings not only his sports background but specific coaching tactics. In the case of the Rouge et Or, it was a fairly unique situation, with Da Costa arriving as the third coach in less than a year, and instilling a brand new culture that has had an immediate impact on the team.
“There isn’t only one way to play volleyball...this is what I try to convey to my players."
“Taking on a new program always has its challenges,” says Da Costa. “There isn’t only one way to play volleyball..., this is what I try to convey to my players. The challenge is above all to find a system that brings out our strengths.”
Officially taking over last August as the 18th head coach in program history, Da Costa wanted to quickly establish a relationship of trust with his players. It was no sooner said than done.
“This approach has been beneficial so far,” says the former assistant of the Canadian national women's team. When asked about his move to Quebec City, Da Costa noted that Quebec is a beautiful city, despite the fact that he hasn't had much time yet to fully enjoy it. The new women’s volleyball bench boss wants to focus on team progress more than anything, which he admits is the only thing he can control.
As to why he chose the Rouge et Or, Da Costa speaks of good timing to gain more experience while contributing to the program’s pursuit of excellence. He says he is attracted to coaching the women’s varsity level because of “its great combination of power and finesse.”
Although his team is relatively young, with only one fifth-year veteran, co-captain and libero Claudia Besner, Da Costa believes that the strength of each student-athlete is essential to the contribution of team performance.
The team’s training now includes an individual exercise aspect each week for the players, as Da Costa advocates the development of independence for all of his student-athletes.
“We need to focus on the positives and learn from our mistakes,” he says.
The integration of new game systems and tactical concepts also helped the team have a strong start to the season, where they are ranked No. 6 in the country, with a 9-3 record and tied atop the RSEQ conference.
“He tries to bring out everyone’s strengths and he’s not afraid of trying new things in a game,” says third-year middle blocker Anne-Sophie Tanguay.
According to Besner, the team is young and features a small roster, which is why individual training is necessary. However, she adds that “Managing our health is a concern for Danny.” The head coach says that he doesn’t have the best nor the most physical team on paper, but that he exploits its strengths in impressive ways.
The new head coach has an excellent toolbox to support the players in their quest for excellence. From the start of training at the end of summer camp, Da Costa first wanted to “establish a bond of trust with the athletes in order to create a positive and favourable environment for development.” With the assistance of two new coaches including Ian Beaulieu, head coach of the Division 1 program at CEGEP Garneau, Da Costa wanted his staff to quickly understand the new philosophy.
François Bégin, president of the board of directors of the volleyball program, explained that the “calm and composed temperament” of Da Costa and his passion for sport were among the criteria that made him stand out as the right choice.
Jean-Noël Corriveau, assistant director of the Laval sports program, adds that a “patient and understanding” attitude was necessary for the team’s players since they had to adapt to a third coach in less than one year.
“Danny is known and appreciated in the world of Volleyball in Quebec and even in Canada,” says Corriveau. “He has already made connections and has started recruiting for next year, which bodes well for the next few years.”
In his first season with the Rouge et Or, Da Costa isn’t taking first place in the standings for granted.
“Obviously, we would like to win as many games as possible, but no one can predict the future,” he says. “Right now, we’re just keeping our focus on one game at a time.”
As the Exclusive Volleyball Supplier of U SPORTS, Mikasa has reaffirmed its commitment to university sports in Canada and will provide match balls, as well as other prizing to the U SPORTS Men’s and Women's Volleyball Championships in 2020.
Samantha-Kim is a fifth-year public communication student at Laval University. She is also a former beach volleyball player with the Canadian national team and indoor player with the Rouge et Or women’s squad. Entering her first year as a U SPORTS correspondent, she hopes to use her passion for sport to showcase the lives of university student-athletes behind the scenes.