Victoria High School looked like a problem for student athlete Carmanah Gleeson when she moved here from Hamilton two years ago.
The high school was noted for its arts programs and sports seemed to be an afterthought.
Gleeson decided to change that, starting with the volleyball program.
She approached volleyball coach Jean Campbell and pushed her to take the team to a higher level of practice and play.
She buttonholed fellow students and talked them into joining the team telling them: “You don’t need super skills to participate, you just need to want to have fun”
This fall Campbell, Gleeson and the rest of the girls volleyball team finished their season at the top of their division winning the Veterans Cup.
The team has become more than just a sports presence. The students have gone on trips together, had team sleep-overs and go out for meals.
Gleeson, who plays on the school’s basketball, curling and soccer teams as well, is praised by Campbell who said that “she has very strong skills” and her knowledge of the game means that “she is almost the assistant coach.”
She even took the junior girls team to a tournament this year at Belmont secondary school when Campbell was unable to make it.
It’s not just the volleyball team that the young woman has taken responsibility for. A lack of a coach meant the girls’ basketball season might not go ahead, but she reached out to a coach outside the school and talked them into signing up.
Asked why she does all this she said, “playing volleyball makes me happy” and “sports has pushed me outside of my normal boundaries, has made me more outgoing.”
It was also a way to deal with a move across the country to a new school shortly after a family trauma. It allowed her to keep busy and make new friends quickly.
School sports aren’t quite enough for Gleeson. She plays volleyball for the Victoria Chargers U18 team, travelling to tournaments every weekend.
The Grade 12 student hopes to go to a college next year. She doesn’t really care which one as long as it has a good volleyball program, although she does admit that going to school locally would be nice as she could continue to live at home.
Asked if she has a final dream for the sports program at Vic High, she admits she’d love to see a school baseball team this spring, one last sports fling before she graduates.
In the meantime, with the high school season over, Gleeson and teammate Shai Manila are busy coaching the Central middle school Grade 8 girls volleyball team.