Pakmen celebrate coach Stanko’s anniversary with historic year

By DAVID WINER

There are 124 volleyball clubs in Ontario whose leaders are dedicated to making the sport both fun and educational for aspiring athletes.

Of those clubs, only Forest City of London, the Mavericks of Ottawa and the Pakmen of Mississauga are accredited by Volleyball Canada.

And of those three, only the Pakmen took that extra step one year ago by hiring a full-time head coach in Orest Stanko.

The 63-year old Toronto native brought 23 years of coaching experience with him to Mississauga, along with 14 division titles and a record 13 OUA championships with the University of Toronto Blues .

The impact the former Ontario Volleyball Association Executive Director has had on the Pakmen in his first full year has been evident on and off the court with a long list of accomplishments.

Now, club president and founder Kelly Smith is continuing in his unprecedented ways by bringing on board four more full-time head coaches to improve what is already, arguably, the most successful volleyball club in the country.

While other clubs may have the best of intentions, and a driving commitment to bettering their athletes, it’s still done on a part-time, or temporary basis, making it impossible to match the focus, dedication, organization and professionalism Pakmen players benefit from with Stanko in charge.

This coming indoor season, Stanko will be joined by fellow full-time coaches, Jessy Satti (U16 boys and Technical Manager), Aleks Mamuzic (U13 Boys and U17 Boys), Prateek Yadav (U16 Girls and U15 Boys) and Kadeem Clarke (U15 Girls and U13 Girls).

“This further underscores the club’s commitment to excellence and providing volleyball athletes with the best possible programs and associated coaching,” said Stanko of the news.

And it’s that ever-present, steadying hand at the helm of the Pakmen Armada that has Smith so excited about the future.

“The obvious progression of our club is the fact that Orest has introduced better drills to each team, and better ways of doing things from warmups, teaching the skills, to dealing with and motivating players,” explained Smith. “He is also attracting excellent people, who want to coach in the Pakmen organization because of (his reputation) and what he stands for and represents.

“The not so obvious,” added Smith, “is Orest is setting a high standard for everyone and wants players and parents to have a voice in the evaluation of the programs we deliver and our coaches. He listens, and acts accordingly.”

And working full-time, Stanko has and will continue to monitor coaches and players on both the house league and rep levels.

“Coaches and players have benefited with better practices as a result of Orest’s guidance,” said Smith. “Orest also has the time to stay on top of all the latest training methodologies and techniques and keeps on top of everything. He then shares all the good stuff with the coaches, most of whom would not have the time to do all this with their full-time jobs.”

While it was difficult to improve on a sensational 2014 season, the Pakmen did just that in 2015.

For the first time in OVA history, the Ontario U18 championship final pitted two teams from the same club with the U17 Pakmen taking on the U18 Pakmen. Not to be outdone, the U16 and U17 girls duplicated the feat.

So, it wasn’t surprising when 20 members of the Pakmen club were named to the girls’ and boys’ U16 and U18 provincial teams.

“Twenty kids making the provincial team is crazy, since the vast majority of clubs do not put a single person on the team,” said Smith.

While this was the first year for both U16 and U18 teams to be named, it was certainly a standard that will be hard to match in the future.

And the nine girls and 11 boys don’t include the club’s players who made World Qualifiers in Beach and chose not to tryout for the four Ontario teams. The list also doesn’t include Zach Albert, who made the team last year, but couldn’t try out due to injury.

Those named to the squads, include U18 Girls Lauren Veltman, Mady Timpany, Cailin Wark, Sarah Dobinson and Janelle Albert; U16 Girls Caitlin Le, Lucy Glen-Carter, Julia Wiercigroch and Tristan Peterson; U18 Boys Sharone Vernon-Evans, Jordan Figueira, Malcolm Prentice, Ethan Ellison and Liam Butchereit; and U16 Boys Pranshu Patel, Andrew Cianci, Deman Dulat, Navreet Suhan, Tomas Sorra and Matthew Powell.

While referring to the above accomplishments over the past 12 months, along with the Provincial, National and cross-border titles at prestigious U.S. tournaments, Stanko noted several other ways the Pakmen improved.

“Not to diminish these significant accomplishments, I am most proud of the dedication and hard work that all of our coaches demonstrated this past season,” said Stanko. “The success of our teams and athletes is directly attributable to the quality of our coaches.”

Still, Stanko isn’t about to allow the club to admire itself on a proverbial pedestal, when there’s so much more work to be done.

“Attracting new coaches, and especially females, continues to be a challenge,” he said. “We have been very fortunate to entice (coaches) Mike Wahbi and Matt Harris, but (finding female coaches) will be an ongoing project that will certainly preoccupy Kelly and I on an ongoing basis.”

As for the positive health of the entire club, Stanko added, “I believe that the next major step for us is to develop/implement a Pakmen-unique athlete development pathway.

“When completed, the document will provide coaches with guidelines for each age category and gender that will extend well beyond technical skill and tactical instruction. The ‘Pathway’ will address other, important topics such as leadership, measures of success, role of parents, mental skill development… aspects that are critical to the development of a young person and athlete.”

“Orest has developed a curriculum and athlete pathway model which he will share with the coaches and then help them implement this upcoming season,” said Smith. “It’s going to be very exciting as everyone will be working on a common curriculum based on Volleyball Canada’s LTAD (Long-Term Athlete Development) model.

“This streamlined delivery will help each athlete tremendously,” raved Smith. “We are going to focus on this and the gold medals will be the by-product.”