Throughout the 2017-18 season, 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: James Gravelle
- School: University of Windsor
- Sport: Men’s volleyball
- Position: Head coach
- Seniority: Five seasons
- Previous school/position: Assistant Coach, men’s volleyball, University of Windsor
- Hometown: Windsor, Ont.
1. How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of Windsor?
I got involved with coaching beach volleyball in 2003 through my friend Paul Shearme who was the Canada Games beach volleyball coach for Team Northwest Territories.
I am a Lancer volleyball alumni and I got back involved with our program when my wife and I moved to Windsor in 2011. I was an assistant coach for two seasons before taking over as head coach in April 2013.
2. Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?
University of Toronto head coach John Barrett has been a big influence and mentor since my playing days. John’s technical knowledge and willingness to share has unlocked a great deal of understanding of the skills. John is a student of the game and every time I speak with him I try to pick his brain on something different.
3. How would you describe your coaching style?
We look to create a training environment built to foster the growth of every player on the roster. We give significant daily attention to every player on our roster and continue to work to develop each and every player for as long as they are in our program. We also focus a great deal on our players’ goals off the court and help them in every way possible achieve them.
4. Which coach do you admire the most, and why?
Glenn Hoag is a coach I admire a great deal. Glenn’s scientific approach to the game has helped me better understand how to analyze player performance. Glenn’s generosity with knowledge transfer is one of the best things that’s happened to volleyball in Canada. But most importantly Glenn’s respect for every player/coach/support staff involved with Team Canada has been a great example of how to run a successful program. When you respect people and treat them well, they will give you their best more often than not.
5. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?
Greatest moment as a coach was being a part of our OUA bronze medal victory this past season. That win qualified our team for nationals for the first time in program history.
6. What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents?
Take a long-term approach to player development. Many athletes are worried about playing time and being a “starter” on their team right now instead of improving and having fun. When you try to take care of the things within your control (i.e. effort, attitude, attendance at practice and team functions) great things seem to happen over time.
7. How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values, etc. have remained the same?
Something that I learned from Glenn Hoag was that when the players look tired and beaten down, it’s best to send them home to rest and come back stronger and more rested tomorrow. It’s better to cut your losses today than risk injury that could affect you for months.
8. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode?
Spending time with my wife and kids is what I enjoy doing most. Our family is young so the moments are precious.