By Alex Baron
Rod Durrant had a rough rookie season as a head coach in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. However, as coach of the University of Calgary men’s volleyball team, Durrant has plenty of potential and an excellent resume to build upon.
The Dinos won the Husky Dino Cup in late October, appearing in the tournament final for the first time in five years. Since then, the team has won only four games, finishing with a record of 4-14.
Durrant came to the Dinos from Alberta Volleyball, where he had spent the last seven years as technical director of the provincial program. In that same time span, he coached the Canadian men’s standing disabled team to three world championships in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
Coming into the year there were a lot of new faces, as only three players from the previous season were around. Despite the current Dinos squad including four players in their fifth and final year of eligibility, the team had trouble finding their stride all season. Early in the year, Durrant felt that the senior players and the three fourth-year players needed to be the leaders of the team.
“[We have] lots of experience, [and these] mature guys need to be their best for us to win,” said Durrant.
Even with this season’s troubles, Durrant has a lot of support from current players glad to have him coaching.
“It’s good to have him,” said Dino setter Glen Handley, who took last year off. “That’s why I came back and I made that clear at the beginning of the year. He’s a coach you like to play for.”
“Rod’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had,” added libero Ryan Poon. “He handles his players with a lot of respect.”
The Dinos came into the season with the goal of making the playoffs and it came down to the last weekend of the year where they needed to win both games against the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack to have a chance at qualifying.
Unfortunately, the Dinos fell short, losing Friday’s game in the fifth set.
“We’ve been up and down all year, we find our stride and [then] take a step back,” said Durrant of the team’s season. “There’s been a lot of changes within this program.”
It doesn’t get easier after this year, as the Dinos lose four players due to ineligibility.
“He is very unique in that he is always trying to improve as a coach,” said assistant coach Calvin Aubin, who has coached with Durrant for 10 years. “He’s never stagnant. He’s always challenging himself and always challenging his players.”
Durrant was inducted into the Volleyball Canada Hall of Fame along with his 2002 Canadian men’s standing disabled championship team.
Some might consider this season a disappointment, but it hasn’t been all bad. For a team in transition, they came agonizingly close to their playoff goal and we can reasonably expect much more from Durrant and his Dinos next year as he tries to break their awful four-year playoff drought.