Pakmen are once again setting the pace
By DAVID WINER
Volleyball in this country is about to get a new look.
Not a nip here and a tuck there, but a complete facelift that will dramatically elevate the future of the sport in Canada.
Instilling a new level of respect internationally for the way Canada develops its future stars through the ranks.
Leading the charge in this endeavor is Pakmen Volleyball Club founder Kelly Smith, who is making the pursuit of a full-time coaching position a reality.
Until now, except for the rare coaching grant, clubs in Canada have never taken on the responsibility of hiring full-time coaches, instead offering part-time and temporary job titles.
This year Smith took the giant leap of hiring full time staff members to modernize and improve what is already considered the top club in the country.
“Pakmen has finally gotten to the point and size where we found it essential to have full-time volleyball coaches,” said Smith. “Getting our own facility made this doable, because running our own facility is a big operation and justifies a full-time staff, which will include eight full-time coaches and a two-man full-time support staff that includes an IT professional.”
A decision that is being heralded by the Volleyball Canada leadership.
“Establishing full-time coaches within the club system is the focal point in Volleyball Canada’s vision for strengthening our Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model,” said Volleyball Canada’s Manager of Sport Development James Sneddon. “Pakmen Volleyball Club is leading the nation in this directive and has further committed to align with Volleyball Canada’s key criteria for High Performance Club programming including training, competition and recovery specifications.”
Prior to making the bold move, Smith and head coach Jessy Satti met with well respected volleyball mind Douglas Beal to map out a strategy.
“Beal is one of the top volleyball minds in the world and we spent two hours talking about how to build the best club in the world,” said Smith. “We are going to immediately implement his ideas for the upcoming 2023-24 competitive season.”
As the former Chief Executive Officer of USA Volleyball, a player on two world championship teams, coach of the US Men’s National Team, the driving force behind establishing a full-time year-round volleyball training centre, a former professional coach in Italy, and a member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, Beal knows a lot about a lot of things.
“The meeting was great,” added Satti. “His knowledge of the sport is amazing. It was a privilege to pick his brain and ask for his opinion on things. We learned a lot about position-specific things that we want to implement with our competitive teams right away!”
Smith and Satti left their meeting wanting to introduce a broad spectrum of ideas troughout all the age groups in the club.
“We want to grow the game by not only expanding our grassroots programs, but also giving every ‘beginner’ (Spikes Learn-to-Player program for Grades 1-6 and Technique Tutoring program Grades 6-12) their own volleyball so they can practice the skills and techniques they learn in class, at home.
“There’s lots of exciting things coming to Pakmen!”
Things that will have an enormous impact on this country’s youth.
While the Ontario Volleyball Association consists of just over 70 clubs and 9,000 indoor players, Pakmen boasts 300 rep players and approximately 8,000 players in its grassroots programs.
And people in the community are lauding the effort.
“In my opinion, it is wonderful that Pakmen has taken volleyball training for youngsters to a level equal to hockey in Canada,” said Alexander Ketrzynski. “With 10 full-time coaches it’s currently the most intense haven in Canada where youth can fully indulge their love for the game from an early age with an option of taking their skills to the absolute highest levels.
“Full-time coaches generally have the possibility of gaining more knowledge and experience of all the aspects of the game than most part-time coaches. Full-time coaching also tends to attract individuals who have a genuine passion for the game which naturally transmits itself to their players.”
One can say Ketrzynski is an expert on the subject, being the patriarch of one of the most successful volleyball families Canada has ever produced.
Cole, Xander and Trent each graduated from Pakmen and are blazing a trail through Canada, the United States and the world.
Ketrzynski took a moment to recap what each of his sons are up to.
“All the boys are working hard during the off-season. Unfortunately Xander and Cole were unable to take part in the National Team programs for the first time in many seasons for personal reasons. Trent is improving very quickly on the National Beach Team. Xander will be returning for another season with his team in Luneburg, Germany. Cole, after winning an NCAA title with UCLA, will be taking his fifth year with Pepperdine.”
And Ketrzynski gives Pakmen a lot of the credit for his sons’ advancements in the volleyball world.
“All the boys have a very mature and deep knowledge of, not only the game, but also the psychological aspects of winning and the necessary off-court physical training necessary to advance to the highest international levels of the sport. Pakmen is unique in its ability to teach the skill of winning along with the enjoyment of steadfastly pursuing the process to ultimate victory along with the entire team. Pakmen was instrumental in teaching the boys and their teammates to accept failure as part of the progress towards success. Yes, winning is a skill that can be taught and it is fun. Overcoming failure is also a very important life-skill.
“Another important aspect of the game is being able to sustain or increase performance in the final points of any set. All three boys, and their Pakmen teammates, have long been dependable when the pressure dramatically increases in the final moments when it’s necessary to come from behind or keep the lead until the end.”
Comprising the staff that will raise Pakmen’s game in the future are head coach Satti, who will coach two rep teams while overseeing the entire rep program; Aleks Manuzic, who will act as Director of Athlete Development, that will encompass working with all the rep athletes in the club; IT specialist Raj Dhaliwal, as well as fellow coaches Diem Huynh, Kadeem Clarke, Omar Jazar, Navi Ghumaan, Arjun Selhi.
“I think it’s great for us to have grown so much to the point where we have dedicated full time volleyball coaches,” said Satti. “It was about 10 years ago when I decided after school I wanted to be a full time coach for Pakmen. At the time I had no idea it was going to grow to this point. I always thought that maybe we’d have 2-3 positions. It’s hard to believe we’re at this point and still with so much more capacity to grow.”
Mamuzic further explained what all the changes will mean for the club and its players.
“Although we have always been one of the most dominant clubs in Canada, we haven’t always been the most organized club,” said Mamuzic. “With the addition of our new full-time staff, previous issues that sometimes fell through the cracks will always be taken care of. This will definitely increase the quality of our house league programs which are already the best in the country. We want to keep improving, so that we can offer the best quality product to our loyal and new customers.”
Mamuzic’s individual responsibilities will be a major contributor to the cohesiveness of every level of ability in the club.
“Essentially I’m in charge of running and maintaining the high standards of our house league programs for beginners and intermediate athletes,” said Mamuzic.
“When it comes to our rep athletes, I run all of our high level indoor and libero training.
“And as one of the more technical coaches in the club, I am in charge of developing proper skills in our younger athletes so they have a solid base to build upon. This also includes building the right mental attitude it takes to become successful at the highest level of youth volleyball.”
Speaking of the club’s youngest athletes, Smith has created options for any youngster to thrive and flourish.
“There are a few private clubs where the owner’s full-time job is running the club, but they are not full time coaches — as they do everything — coach, GM, act as bookkeeper, etc. etc.
“Pakmen has full time coaches who do nothing but coach volleyball 40-plus hours a week.
“Our coaches coach rep teams, do specialty training for athletes during the day and on weekends, and run camps and coaching clinics.”
All these options for youngsters entering the sport has led to record numbers of registrants.
“We are different (than other clubs) because we have the largest grass roots program in Canada,” added Smith with great pride. “For example, more kids are enrolled in our Spikes Learn to Play program, than all the Spikes Learn to Play programs in Ontario — combined. In fact, 95 per cent of the club is grass roots, and five per cent consist of the rep teams.
While the Ontario Volleyball Association consists of just over 70 clubs and 9,000 indoor players, Pakmen boasts 300 rep players and approximately 8,000 players in its grass roots programs.
“We also recognize that not everyone wants to play rep for various reasons, but they still want to play volleyball at a high level and we offer programs for them; the GTA Premier League for girls who play on school teams and Pakmen Plus for boys who play on school teams.
And for the more advanced players, Pakmen once again lead the way in opportunities.
“We also have been designated by Volleyball Canada to run their Regional Excellence Program — a training program for rep players from any club which focuses on individual skills.”
And to make volleyball the best experience for each and every player, Pakmen have gone the extra mile to provide the best facility.
“We are the only club in Canada with our own facility,” boasted Smith. “A five-court, 16,000 square foot facility solely dedicated to volleyball. When I say volleyball only, I mean you cannot play basketball or any other sport there as we installed a sub floor designed for volleyball with lots of give in the floor to conserve the knees, but not suitable for basketball as the ball won’t bounce properly.
“We also have a partnership with the Peel District School Board allowing students to use three state-of-the-art beach volleyball courts that cost $200,000 at two board schools (six courts in total) during the school year and for our athletes to use during the beach volleyball season.”
Combine the facility with a full-time staff and Smith is certain a youngster’s volleyball experience at the Pakmen Volleyball Club will be a fulfilling one.
“With full-time professional coaches as the backbone of our coaching staff, we are able to stay on top of the latest methods, both in coaching, and in the science of the sport itself. Our full time coaches pass this knowledge and expertise on to the rest of our coaches so every athlete benefits.
“Pakmen has always been a leader in Canadian Volleyball and I feel full time coaches will be common practice for most clubs in the not too distant future. It will be good for the players and the sport in general.”
Ketrzynski has no doubt that the Pakmen success story will continue for years to come, especially with the added boost of full-time staff members.
“Pakmen has already provided many Canadian players to our National Teams as well as to top university and professional leagues,” said Ketrzynski. “I believe the number of these players will now dramatically increase.
“Players in these realms are living out their dreams,” continued Ketrzynski. “There is no doubt that Canadian volleyball will rise internationally with the improved development of more highly skilled players and new coaches. The Pakmen model is the first of its kind in Canada, but it also shows what can be replicated and accomplished in other parts of the country. In my opinion, these types of programs assist a wider population of Canadian youth and generally raise the level of Canadian volleyball at all levels.”