The power behind the Lions
Published in the November 22, 2006 edition of The Toronto Star, written by David Grossman – Sports reporter.
“Kelly Smith has received just about every accolade when people talk about the success of the volleyball program at Mississauga Secondary School. But Smith doesn’t work at the school – nor does he coach any of the school’s teams. However, he has produced players for all three teams – senior, junior and bantam – which finished the Peel Region regular season with undefeated records. Not bad for a high school that’s only two years old. In fact, the senior Lions are off to the provincial playoffs starting Friday in Barrie. And they’re ranked No.3 among 20 schools vying for a medal. Dubbed the “miracle worker” by players, Smith is the man behind the scenes.
A teacher at David Leeder Middle School, just down the street from the high school, the 46-year-old Smith not only has a passion for the sport but he’s got kids of all ages hooked on it. Smith continues to feed the secondary school with talented players, although many of them admit to being initially leery about volleyball. But that has changed. “I didn’t know anything about volleyball let alone how to play and (Smith) changed all that,” said middle hitterTerrel Bramwell, a 16-year-old with the Lions. “I’ve only been playing for three years and he kept training me, putting in time to help me get where what I am today – a national all-star and MVP. He’s a miracle worker and I owe all my success to Kelly Smith.” Smith was able to get all 700 students at his school playing volleyball. Some play in house leagues while others compete for the four-time defending South Region league champs. The owner of the Pakmen Volleyball Club, Smith is proud about a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation which has been used to encourage youngsters from the multicultural community to take up volleyball.
“There’s no finer moment than seeing these young people, from many nationalities, have fun and not get at each others’ throats. They grasp the sport, take it to the next level and keep going from there.” Although Smith teaches physical education and English, he has never played volleyball.
“I’m not the greatest coach around but I do like getting kids exposed to the sport,” he said. “The trick is to get kids involved – and keep them busy,” he said. “At my school, they see the success of the older kids and when they watch them play (at Mississauga), it’s almost like watching their idols or the Olympics.” Jessy Satti, a setter on the Lions’ senior team, said he used to hear people joke about volleyball. “He (Smith) was like a magnet – just grabbed everyone and introduced them to volleyball,” Satti recalled. “Passing, setting, hitting – it was all new to me but he made it fun. All this is unexpected and beyond my wildest dreams. He’s made volleyball, and working with others on the team, the biggest thing in my life.”