Pakmen Alumni Give Club’s Coaching Ranks a Sense of Continuity
By DAVID WINER
They are the lifeblood of the Pakmen Volleyball Club.
Those who have enjoyed the rich experience of being a Pakmen player, and have now begun a new chapter in their lives, passing on that joy and experience to the next generation of Pakmen players.
Helping to comprise that group of lifers is Aleks Mamuzic, who has been given the enviable task of heading up the 15U boys for the upcoming Ontario Volleyball Association indoor season.
While relatively young, the 26-year-old Mamuzic is already an accomplished coach. Since taking the helm of a team for the 2014-15 season, the Brampton native’s list of accomplishments is impressive.
In his first full indoor season, Mamuzic’s 16U boys won Provincial gold and National silver. The following 2015-16 campaign, Mamuzic led the 13U boys to Provincial gold. Then, last year, Mamuzic doubled up on his efforts, helping the 14U boys win Provincial gold and National bronze, while also securing Provincial and National gold with the 15U boys.
It’s those 13U and 14U boys’ teams of the past two seasons that Mamuzic hopes to lead to more hardware this upcoming indoor season.
Club President Kelly Smith points out much of the club’s successes in recent seasons has been due to some of the less heralded coaches, who are deserving of greater attention.
“Aleks is one of the few technical coaches I know,” explained Smith. “Everyone claims to be a technical coach, but their players’ skill sets don’t always match that claim. Every team Aleks has ever coached has superior technical skills. He’s a natural teacher and his athletes reap the rewards.”
“I’ve been the head coach of three different teams,” began Mamuzic. “The team I’m coaching this year I’ve been moving up with, but the rest (of the time) I was asked to (coach) because the club needed me to.
“It’s usually tough getting them to learn new defensive and offensive systems, or to change some technique that I think they need to improve on, but the Pakmen athletes are ‘athletic’ and they usually pick up on it quickly.”
Mamuzic also, at times, relishes the opportunity to be parachuted in to a new team, suggesting bringing fresh eyes to a group of players, can be beneficial.
“Similar to high level tennis players, it’s good to get new coaches working with you and teaching you different ways of doing skills.”
Mamuzic certainly enjoyed the benefit of having fresh new eyes early in his career.
“I started to play for Pakmen in my third year of volleyball in Grade 9 (15U),” recalled Mamuzic. “I was introduced to (Pakmen) by losing to them at tournaments. My dad was impressed with Kelly Smith’s coaching, so I came over to the club, and I played the rest of my club career with Pakmen.”
“He was hard working and very coachable,” remembers Smith of Mamuzic’s first year. “We won Nationals that year and he was a big reason why we did.”
By the time Mamuzic reached the Pakmen, he had already caught the bug, choosing to make volleyball his primary sport.
“I think a big part of it was my teammates. We all had a winning attitude which meant we worked hard not just for ourselves, but for each other. I played a lot of other sports growing up. Soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis, badminton, and track. Playing multiple sports at a young age made me an athlete. But when my Grade 6 coach forced me to play volleyball — I didn’t want to back then — I fell in love with the sport. Now, I get to earn a living while giving back to the next generation of athletes.”
“I started helping with our camps and working with the younger kids when I was 16,” said Mamuzic as to how he got into coaching. “When ever they needed coaches, I asked to do it. By the time I was 20 I was working full weekend and summer shifts with the club. I assisted my first team when I was 22 and head coached that same 16U team the following year in 2014-15.”
Now, the Mayfield Secondary School graduate works at the craft full-time.
“Aside from coaching different club teams, I run our Sunday weekend program at West Credit SS, run our summer camp at Thomas Street MS, and I run our Girls Rep Beach Volleyball program.”
And with that extensive coaching experience, Mamuzic has developed further insight in to what works with younger players may differ from the older set.
“With the younger teams you really have to enforce and applaud effort,” explained Mamuzic. “Their willingness to go for every ball, listen and apply techniques they’re being taught, and put the team and the club over personal gains. As soon as they start to demand that of themselves and of their teammates, the rest falls into place much more easily. This year’s 15U boys will have to learn a new, much faster, offense this year to help our attackers beat the opponents block and prepare them for the higher levels of the sport.”
Few people in the know will question Mamuzic’s ability to add to his already long list of success stories.