Pakmen’s coaching talent pool continues to grow with hiring of Harris

Photo: Head coach of Team Ontario u19 Gold Medal winning team Matt Harris (left)

 

By DAVID WINER

The powerhouse Mississauga Pakmen became an even greater teaching institution this past week, with the hiring of another talented volleyball mind.

While Matt Harris was brought into the fold to do a job, volleyball is more than just a job to him — it’s his life.

Should his players come away with a sliver of Harris’ passion for the game, they in turn, will become volleyball lifers themselves. “Oh 100 percent. That’s me,” said Harris when asked if it was fair to say volleyball is his life. “Day job…..volleyball coach! I am fortunate to spend my days and evenings at Ryerson University. As the assistant coach for the women’s volleyball team, I have the great opportunity to work alongside my mentor/my hero/my good friend Dustin Reid .”

Reid certainly seems equipped to be a superb tutor, having been a former Canadian national team player, a coach with Volleyball Canada’s Centre of Excellence Mississauga, and having coached professionally in Switzerland, winning four different national championships. “Having known and worked with Matt for over 10 years, I think he’s a great addition to (the) Pakmen Volleyball Club,” said Reid. “He’s a hard working, and talented coach, who cares about the athletes he works with. He will fit in well with the already terrific group of coaches at Pakmen.”

Along with being hard working and talented, Harris’ experience goes well beyond assisting the Ryerson Rams. With 18 years of coaching experience, Harris has taught at the university, high school and club levels, headed up Ontario Volleyball Association programs, the Volleyball Canada Centre of Excellence Toronto, as well as several Athlete Development Programs. “Through these experiences I have worked extensively in the development of high performance athletes,” explained Harris. “Strengths that I am looking to bring to Pakmen include athlete development, advanced skill analysis, practice planning, talent identification, and a full understanding of the development of athletes through competition and training.”

Through his experiences of coaching men, women, boys and girls, three highlights stand out for Harris. Coaching with the National Capitals club in Ottawa from 2004-09, leading Ontario to a National Team Challenge Cup victory last year, and guiding his old high school team Glebe Collegiate Institute to OFSAA gold in 2007.

That gold medal is even more memorable now that Harris is returning to the scene of the crime. It was against Mississauga Secondary School that Glebe won the Ontario high school championship in dramatic fashion, 26-24, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23. Harris coached the Griffins for 15 years, but that year’s powerhouse won all 51 of its matches and 116 of 121 sets. “We beat that Mississauga team twice that year,” recalled Harris. “That team was loaded with some big names that would shape the Pakmen club.”

One of those names is current Pakmen coach Jessy Satti, who graduated from David Leeder Middle School, where Pakmen founder and president Kelly Smith was his coach, before moving on to Mississauga. “From what I remember Glebe always had strong teams, were fierce competitors and always prepared for big matches,” said Satti. “I feel that Matt Harris deserves a lot of credit for that. Growing up I always had a ton of respect for him while competing against his teams, it’s clear he has a strong passion and great understanding of the game. Mississauga SS and Glebe have had some great matches against each other, I have nothing but respect for Matt and I’m really excited for him to be a part of the club.”

While Smith, doesn’t remember Harris from that far back, he’s seen enough of Harris’ coaching abilities to want to grab him for the Pakmen program. “I have followed Matt’s coaching career for the past seven, or eight years and have always been impressed with the teams he has coached and the way he always conducts himself,” said Smith. “He is widely respected by both players and coaches in our sport and it’s been a priority to get him on the Pakmen team. His passion for the game, expertise in the sport, and integrity as a person fits perfectly into the Pakmen model. Every club wanted Matt, knowing he was coming available, and we are thrilled he chose Pakmen. Our head coach, Orest Stanko will make the final decision which team Matt will be coaching, but we all agree he will have a key role in one of our senior teams. Matt has a lot of experience and a lot to teach both our players and coaches.” Harris makes it no secret that’s he’s ecstatic to join the Pakmen.

“I chose Pakmen because it was the closest comparison to my experience I had at Glebe Collegiate in Ottawa,” he said. “To be able to help guide the leaders of tomorrow in one of the most influential stages in development is so important. What Kelly has done in creating a vision, and more importantly how he has gone about implementing it, is honestly a true success story. For Kelly, Orest, and all the other coaches in Pakmen to provide confidence in me to be a part of their organization is an honor. I look forward to bringing all my experiences from being the provincial team coach and working in national team programs to Pakmen.”

Harris relishes the thought of working with the club’s young and talented players, and preparing them for the next level in their lives and volleyball careers. “Although I have coached teams that have been successful and have won Provincial, Eastern National, and OFSAA championships, my biggest accomplishment amidst these successes has been the number of athletes that I have coached that have gone on to play at the next level,” said Harris. “Many of my athletes have gone on to play on provincial teams or at the university level, and this is extremely gratifying for me.”

As the Pakmen head coach, Stanko knows Harris will be a major boon to the club’s continuing desire to improve. “Matt is a tremendous addition to the Pakmen coaching staff,” said Stanko. “Volleyball is Matt’s passion and he has dedicated himself to becoming the best possible coach. “Pakmen athletes and coaches will most definitely benefit from his knowledge,” continued Stanko. “I look forward to working closely with Matt to continue to reaffirm Pakmen as the best volleyball club in Ontario and Canada.”

Until the next indoor season, Harris will once against work with Team Ontario, as well as heading to Edmonton to help coach in Volleyball Canada’s newest Youth Select program for the country’s top 16U players. Harris will also try to find the time to complete his NCCP Level 3, before working on Level 4/5 through the National Coaching Institute Advanced Coaching Diploma. “I am a highly dedicated coach always seeking out additional opportunities for growth and development,” explained Harris. “I have always supported OVA programs, and am ready for my next challenge in furthering high performance volleyball in Mississauga, the GTA, Ontario, and Canada.”