Matt LeBourdais, Thunderbirds men’s volleyball assistant coach (left) and Kerry MacDonald, head coach, stand with the banner after the men’s volleyball team ended a 35-year drought at the national championships. (Will Dickson/UBC Thunderbirds)

Revelstoke-born volleyball player coaches UBC men’s program to a national title

It’s the Thunderbirds’ first national championship since 1983

A former Revelstoke volleyball player has coached the University of British Columbia’s men’s volleyball team to its first national title in 35 years.

At the TELUS 2018 Men’s Volleyball Championships hosted by Ontario’s McMaster University, the UBC Thunderbirds downed the two-time defending champion Trinity Western Spartans in straight sets.

It was a victory for the players, but also for coach Kerry MacDonald, who stepped up to the helm of the men’s volleyball program in 2016.

“I’m really happy for the school and the program that we were able to break that streak,” said MacDonald. The UBC men’s volleyball team last won the national championship in 1983. The victory this year is their fourth. The team also won in 1967 and 1976. “There are many incredible teams and athletes that have come in between, so I am just hoping that they get to feel some of this success.”

MacDonald grew up in Revelstoke playing volleyball. He attended afternoon practices with Terry Beitel and Mark Watson and morning practices with John Campbell.

“Growing up and playing in Revelstoke has probably made me feel like David in the David vs. Goliath saga. We were always the small school playing against the big city teams. I would also say that our coaches in Revy instilled a solid work ethic in us that I have maintained,” said MacDonald. “I think we were just prepared to work harder and put in more time than our competition.”

Campbell was recently inducted into the BC Volleyball Hall of Fame on Feb. 3 this year, gaining further recognition for the incomparable seven-consecutive seasons his high school boys volleyball team won the provincial championships. MacDonald said that even though he didn’t realize it at the time, having Campbell as a coach in high school has influenced his career.

“It wasn’t until I started coaching in University that I realized how much I enjoyed coaching,” he said. “I had such respect and admiration for John and saw the incredible impact that he had on myself and so many of my friends.

“The thought of being a coach full-time in volleyball was certainly then a set as a distant dream, I was just lucky enough to make it my reality.”

MacDonald was an assistant coach with the University of Calgary men’s volleyball team in 2010 when the Dinos won the national championship. He has his PhD in Kinesiology and Exercise Science.

When he was hired in 2016 to head the UBC men’s volleyball program, the Ubyssey reported that during his initial years as a PhD candidate, he coached a volleyball club to a championship without the team getting even a single injury.

UBC player Irvan Brar, who was named to the Tournament All-Star Team, commended the support staff following the team’s victory.

“It all came together pretty sweetly,” he said. “Coach K is killing it for us and we’re so happy to get a national championship for him and for us.”

MacDonald said the most fulfilling part of his job short-term is seeing “athletes make strides as volleyball players and improve technically, tactically and physically” and over the long-term, it’s seeing “18-year-old boys mature into 22-year-old men. Seeing them grow and develop their character over their time in the program is a very special reward for the job.”

MacDonald, who attended Campbell’s Hall of Fame induction, said he’s “happy to add more bullet points in the tremendous history of volleyball in Revelstoke.”

Next up for the Thunderbirds is working on defending their championship title.

“We are now heavy into recruiting, planning our summer camps and planning our pre-season schedule,” said MacDonald, “which includes a trip to Italy to play some professional teams.”



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The UBC THunderbirds men’s volleyball coaching staff stand with their gold medals and the championship trophy. From left: Matt Krueger, Matt LeBourdais, Ian Perry and Kerry MacDonald. The Thunderbirds ended at 35-year championship drought with the win. (Will Dickson/ UBC Thunderbirds)

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