With a paused athletic program and no coaches on contract, filling holes in RRC’s rosters will be a challenge

By: Georgia Dalke

Kezia Balzer is finding online school challenging without training and Rebels soccer games to look forward to.

The breakout star of last year’s women’s soccer team isn’t the only one struggling with RRC’s decision to not participate in the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference for the 2020-2021 season.  

“I use sports as one of my major outlets for school…you definitely miss that team aspect,” said Balzer.

Balzer, who is enrolled in the RRC Nursing program, isn’t the only one affected by the axed season.

Not only is the choice disappointing for current student-athletes, but a potentially high turnover of coaching staff could affect the careers of players in future Rebels classes.

While coaches for other sports may return, the men’s and women’s volleyball programs will need to fill more than just their player roster. This spring, RRC announced women’s volleyball head coach Dan McGregor’s departure following the 2019-2020 season. His position remains unfilled. 

Previous women’s volleyball head coach Dan McGregor at a home game on November 20, 2015.
While a search was launched this spring, his replacement has not been named. Photo
courtesy of Red River College.

Meanwhile, Chris Voth, head coach of RRC’s men’s volleyball squad, may head to Europe to coach his former professional team Lycurgus, pending approval on a work permit, as per the club’s website.

If RRC announces they intend to play in the upcoming 2021-2022 season, they will start at a disadvantage. Recruiting new players and building a team during the COVID-19 pandemic is complicated, as many scouts, coaches, and players found out this summer.

“Manitoba is pretty small … so it’s easy to identify a kid or you hear it through the grapevine,” said Tanner Owens, a scout for the University of Winnipeg men’s volleyball team.

Athletes are usually identified at age sixteen, then gradually have more contact with schools as they near graduation.

Owens said the scouting process has changed drastically due to COVID-19. Some athletes could get overlooked if they don’t have the right contacts, so coaches and staff are relying on alternate methods. Zoom meetings, virtual campus visits, and “a lot of film” are now commonplace.

Provinces have also held live-streamed showcase events, bringing many athletes together for a combine-style workout. 

In Owens’s opinion, scouting is a reciprocal process.

“The kid kind of needs to reach out to the coach as well.” 

Faith Ridd, a recent women’s volleyball recruit for the Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) Blazers, echoes that call to action.

“I emailed first, and then Jamie [Menzies, CMU women’s volleyball head coach] came out and watched me play at a couple of tournaments…that got us more in contact.”

All RRC Rebels teams are looking at major rebuilds and coaching shake-ups in 2021. With leaders like Balzer uncertain of what RRC teams may look like, future Rebels must step up and take the responsibility to ensure a successful return to intercollegiate competition.