By Brad Halasz
Jesse Knight is used to a culture of winning. Perhaps that is why his transition was seamless when he was named head coach of the University of Calgary women’s volleyball team for the 2008-09 season.
“I came to a program that is very healthy,” he said. “I’m really excited to be a part of this.”
Knight’s enthusiasm is warranted as his team has a 3-1 record to start the season, continuing the winning tradition of his predecessor Kevin Boyles, who was named interim Athletic Director in January.
Boyles coached the team to several Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships and was named Canada West Universities Athletic Association coach of the year three times, among other accomplishments. Knight said his job is to maintain the level of success the team is accustomed to.
“I think the culture of winning is similar to my experiences, but more specific I really believe in these girls, being on the other side of the ball, I always thought this group was very strong,” he said.
The Dinos latest success came when they beat the Trinity Western University Spartans three sets to two in Langley, B.C. last Saturday.
“It was emotional,” said Knight, citing the small gym and packed crowd as factors to overcome. “You have to find a way to keep your composure through that and we did. They blocked extremely well.”
The winning streak came to an end the next day as they fell to the hands of TWU, losing three sets to one to split the weekend series.
“We did hang in there and had a similar night, but Trinity was able to prevail,” said Knight, adding a split at TWU is usually a good thing.
It would be naive to think Knight and his squad are not going to lose some games this year, but based on the history of the team and Knight’s success elsewhere, those losses will be hard to find.
Knight has a history of being involved with healthy organizations as he helped the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds win the 2008 Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship as an assistant coach.
He also honed his head coaching skills at the helm of the T-Birds U-21 program where his record sat at an impressive 21-7.
The Hamilton, Ontario native attributes his success to a simple but important factor: he loves the sport of volleyball. That love, however, may have been the product of factors like the growing pains of an adolescent wrestling with adulthood.
“Going to six-foot-two from five-foot-seven in one summer and playing football and hockey and getting my ass kicked,” he said led to the volleyball court, where he found his passion.
And while Knight and his team are enjoying early season success, he knows that although it is important to maintain a winning culture, the moment they believe their hype is the moment they become complacent and start to lose.
“As a professional coach there is always pressure, it’s just something you deal with,” he said.
“You can’t focus on that, the only thing you can focus on is to get better everyday and the other stuff will take care of itself.”
Correction: In the original version of this story the team’s record was incorrectly stated to be 4-1 rather than the correct 3-1. The Gauntlet apologizes for any confusion.