VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds will celebrate the 30th anniversary of a special relationship when the men’s volleyball program welcomes Sungkyunkwan University (SKK) back to War Memorial Gymnasium for a pair of games this weekend.
The feature match between the two teams will take place on Saturday, January 10 at 7 p.m. The squads will also face each other on Friday, January 9 at 7 p.m.
The first UBC-SKK matchup took place in South Korea in 1985, and over the past three decades, the schools have taken turns hosting each other. SKK was last in Vancouver in October of 2008 for the Thunderball tournament. Two years later, in August 2010, the Thunderbirds made the return trip.
“This relationship between UBC and SKK has been an invaluable tool for both programs to learn and experience different ways our game is trained, played and respected,” said UBC head coach Richard Schick. “We are extremely proud of this 30-year relationship with SKK and look forward to this continuing for many years to come.
UBC will visit South Korea in the summer of 2016.
In addition to the reciprocal visits, numerous Thunderbirds have had the opportunity to visit Asia and train with the SKK program, which is what current T-Bird Mac McNicol did this summer. The Applied Science student spent 24 days over July and August in Suwon, South Korea.
“We did a lot of running,” said McNicol in a GoThunderbirds.ca story on his time in Korea, describing a typical day of training. “In a normal day I would get up at 6:30, we’d go for a four-kilometre run to warm up, then breakfast. You’d go to the morning practice of usually three or four hours, lunch, then another three to four hours of training.”
The main character behind the longstanding UBC-SKK bond is Dr. Han-Joo Eom, an alumnus of both schools.
After graduating from SKK and finishing a professional volleyball career, he arrived at UBC in 1984 to begin his Masters of Physical Education degree.
He played the 1985-86 season with the Thunderbirds and then served as an assistant to UBC head coach Dale Ohman. Eom completed his Masters in 1989 and his Ph.D. in 1993.
Eom currently serves on the International Federation of Volleyball’s (FIVB) Board of Administration and is a professor of Sport Science at SKK.
As for this weekend’s matches, fans are in for some entertaining volleyball. A large contingent of SKK alumni, as well as members of the local Korean-Canadian community, is expected to be in the War Memorial Gym crowd.
“SKK is always an extremely skilled team. They are technically strong and are always a team that competes and fights very hard for every point,” said Schick. “They are relentless on defence and serve and pass the ball very well. They are very quick and seem to turn every chance they get into a quality offensive opportunity.
“Playing SKK will test our focus in our block defense as they run a very quick deceptive offence where they have players attacking from many different positions on the court. Being aggressive, especially on the block and our attack, are going to be key to any success we will have against this team.”