The two 2018 Volleyball BC Hall of Fame inductees with Greater Victoria connections have a link that helps illustrate the tight-knit community in the sport.
Kent Andrews coached athlete inductee and Claremont secondary alumnus Greg Russell in 1969-70 when both were in their first year with the University of Victoria Vikings men’s team. They add to an Island group that includes legendary coaches Vic Lindal and Ron Greene, both inducted into the hall as builders.
“The Island’s always been well represented,” says Andrews. “[For me] it all started at S.J. Willis.”
He remembers the local volleyball scene ramping up at a time when he was teaching phys-ed during the day at the former junior high while coaching UVic in his off hours. With Lindal and Greene calling on their contacts and up-and-coming coach Andrews arranging the gym space, some big events were hosted at S.J. Willis, including one of the first international matches between China and Canada.
Andrews backed into his first post-secondary coaching job, taking over the men’s team at UVic – “nobody wanted to do it,” he says – from Don Smith, who was men’s and women’s coach but took a leave to pursue a master’s degree. Smith had his pick of teams upon his return and Andrews took over the women’s team, a post he held for the next 14 years.
During that time he coached at the high school level and helped develop the Team B.C. program. He was also instrumental in bringing the Pacific Rim Championships to Victoria and coached a Canadian entry in that tournament and others in Hawaii. His women’s teams enjoyed success at the Canada Games, winning gold in Lethbridge in 1975 and silver in 1979 in Brandon.
He ended his high school career in 2002 after 19 years at Gulf Islands secondary on Saltspring Island, coaching boys and girls teams there as well.
Russell followed up a five-year career as a standout middle blocker at UVic with six years on the national team, for whom he played in the 1974 and 1978 world championships and the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
Now a resident of Surrey, he played professionally in the International Volleyball Association, was a two-time B.C. beach volleyball champion and was a two-time all-star at the Canadian senior nationals in 1986 and 1987.
Andrews was proud to see such talents as Russell, and Regyna Armonas, whom Andrews coached on the provincial team before she played for Canada’s women’s side in the 1976 Olympics, go on to greater glory.
“I think it’s always special to see somebody go as far as they can in their ability and represent their country,” he says. As for coaching at a high level in general, he notes, “The competitive level is very special, especially if you’re fairly consistent and on the winning side of the ledger.”
As Andrews has aged, so have his charges. He got involved coaching a senior women’s team some years back and guided them to a bronze medal at the World Senior Games in 2005. He continues to help them out at weekly practices at the CFB Naden gym and has enjoyed travelling to Hawaii for tournaments in his retirement.
Looking back on his years in the sport, which began as a kid back in 1949 in Powell River, Andrews is rather matter of fact. “I have some disappointments, but I don’t have any regrets.”