To kick-off this weekend’s final home games of the season and 25th Anniversary celebrations, Camosun presents the stories of five Chargers alum who remain closely connected to the program. While their stories are different, a common theme remains … “Once a Charger, always a Charger.”
(Part two of Five)
Recipe for success…Hard Work = Teamwork
Chargers women’s volleyball Head Coach Brent Hall credits hard work, physical and mental well-roundedness and strong team bonds for his team’s big turn around this season.
Following a star-studded stint as a left-side hitter for the Chargers men’s volleyball team, Brent spent several years honing his coaching skills prior to returning to Camosun and taking charge of the women’s volleyball program which has emerged from a 1-23 season, to being ranked as one of the nation’s Top 10.
Brent began his post-secondary athletic career at Thompson Rivers University, where he played for three years before transferring to Camosun for the 2008-09 season. The former team captain made the most of his two years with the Chargers, helping the team collect back-to-back titles at the BCCAA Provincial Championships (he was named a Tournament All-Star both years), along with a Bronze medal finish at the 2009 CCAA Nationals. He also excelled academically, earning a CCAA National Scholar Athlete award and the BCCAA Academic Excellence award. Following a highly successful playing career, Brent went on to finish his degree in Camosun’s Bachelor of Athletic and Exercise Therapy program.
Prior to taking over the reigns of the Chargers women’s volleyball program in 2017, Brent took on a variety of coaching positions with organizations including the Volleyball Canada Centre of Excellence, the Victoria Volleyball Association and Momentum Volley. More recently, Brent has complimented his coaching experience with training offered by the National Coaching Institute, the Canadian Sport Institute and Volleyball Canada.
In addition to coaching, Brent has been working as an athletic therapist at The Athlete Centre, a private Victoria clinic aimed at an active population, and as a personal trainer at Camosun’s Interurban Fitness Centre.
The Chargers caught up with Brent to talk about his experience as an athlete, his journey into coaching and the stellar season his team has produced.
Q: What attracted you to return to the program and work with the Chargers?
A: Coaching is a challenging pursuit that has occupied a lot of my attention and energy for several years. I had been involved with school and club teams in the community for a few years prior to taking on the head coaching position at Camosun, and I was getting more and more interested in the art and science of coaching. The opportunity to coach at the CCAA level appealed to me because it’s a chance to work with athletes more often, for longer, and with a high level of buy-in. The Chargers athletes are motivated, engaged, and hard-working; they make remarkable progress as a result.
Q: What kind of training do you do to keep your coaching skills/knowledge fresh and current?
A: I spent a lot of time last off-season learning about coaching – coaching in general and coaching volleyball specifically. I completed the National Coaching Certification Program’s Performance Coach training for indoor volleyball. Along the way I attended the Canadian Sport Institute’s International Coaching School, a week-long multi-sport coaching program, where I learned alongside a number of accomplished coaches across many sports. I also attended Volleyball Canada’s High-Performance Symposium in Ottawa and had the chance to observe some of the men’s national program training and competition. I was also fortunate enough to lead Team BC’s Red & Blue program for most of July. They were a collection of the 30 top athletes in BC, mostly at the 16U level. It was a valuable venue to apply some of what I learned in the classroom prior to beginning the season at Camosun. I’m lucky enough to have been selected to lead the program again this summer, which will take me to Nova Scotia with this year’s crew to compete in the Canada Cup.
Q: What is the impact that you want to make on the individuals you coach/mentor?
A: In a high-performance environment, my role is to direct our athletes to the skills and abilities that will most highly impact their performance, and that of the team. Most athletes at this level come with motivation, determination, and competitive drive; I take a collaborative approach and lean on those traits. The guiding philosophy of the program centres around making the most of the opportunity to get better every day and perform at the highest level possible – this means paying attention to every aspect of life that goes into learning and competing. My belief is that time spent as part of the Chargers program will positively impact the pursuits our student-athletes take on later in life.
Q: Your first season as head coach seemed like a really challenging one in terms of wins and losses. The turn-around the team has made this year is nothing short of phenomenal (with a #9 national ranking at the time of this interview). Can you give us some insight into how that change came about?
A: Last season was a bit of an anomaly; it followed a successful national championship campaign in the 2016-17 season with a veteran team. Many athletes transferred away or stopped playing following that season, particularly with uncertainty around who the next coach would be. Being hired late in the recruiting cycle meant struggling to restock the team. At one point, we only had eight healthy bodies able to compete – many of whom were rookies. We were tested every weekend to find a way to understand where we were on the journey to rebuilding a winning team. The athletes that returned to this year’s team are resilient and understand that winning takes a serious commitment to applying the right habits over time. They are now seeing the delayed gratification of two seasons of consistent hard work. Although we as coaches are working hard to improve alongside them, the credit for a good season goes to the athletes. They’ve been a big part of maintaining a gritty, determined attitude this season, and they also understand the importance of playing as a team.
Q: Speaking of athletes, what stands out as one of your most enjoyable moments as a Charger athlete?
A: I have so many great memories from my years as a Charger. The most memorable match of my career was in my fifth year when we hosted Provincials at Camosun. We faced an undefeated UBC-O team in the semi-final and won in straight sets. I remember entering that match with a feeling that the hard work had been done and there was nothing more I could do to improve. I was able to relax and truly enjoy competing. I now understand that mental process and do what I can to communicate it to the athletes I coach.
Q: What do you appreciate most about your experience as a student-athlete?
A: Charles [Parkinson] is known for commenting on the bond that is created between teammates, and how enduring it is. Many of my closest friends are those who stood beside me in Chargers jerseys. So while the feeling of winning an important match was great, I feel very lucky to still have many of my teammates in my life to this day.
Overall, the experience of being a post-secondary level athlete shaped me greatly. Being involved as a coach now continues to push me to grow. My hope is to create an environment that supports the athletes who go through our program to be their best. I encourage them to develop a well-rounded set of skills and knowledge that will benefit their minds and bodies for the remainder of their lives. It’s all in an effort to win volleyball games right now, but whether they know it or not, they’ll depend on those skills when they leave the hardwood and pursue other things outside Camosun College and PISE’s cinderblock walls.