The Victoria Volleyball Association Black Chargers don’t need to look far for inspiration. Their final practice, before opening today at the boys’ Canadian U-15 championships in Regina, took place at Royal Oak Middle School. That’s where Fred Winters, Canada captain at the 2016 Rio Olympics, began playing volleyball at about their age.
The Chargers coach is Rick Wutzke, who used to coach brothers and former Canadian national team players Josh and Mark Howatson.
It’s a good idea to listen and learn from Wutzke, who has guided Victoria teams from U-14 to U-16 to four medals at the national championships since 1991, and who has sent numerous players on to university play in U Sports and in Canadian colleges.
Even by those standards, his latest group is special. The U-15 VVA Chargers boys’ are undefeated in three years.
“I think the rest of the teams in B.C. might be getting medal envy,” quipped Wutzke, who is assisted by coach George Godoy.
“This is a driven group that wants to succeed.”
This Chargers group recently won its third consecutive B.C. championship, with setter Matthew King and power-hitters Piers De Greeff and Thomas Godoy being named provincial tournament all-stars.
The players on the roster are completing Grade 9 and come from seven middle and junior high schools in Greater Victoria, and will be the main stars in high school play over the next three years.
“It’s about teaching the right skills at the right time,” said Wutzke, who won three B.C. boys’ high school championships at Oak Bay as assistant coach to Al Carmichael.
“You have to put in the time, love the game and be organized.”
Coaches and players need to be serious, even at the U-15 level.
“The game has become faster and more technical and teams study tape all season long,” said Wutzke.
But coaches need to retain a sense of perspective, which is wise advice for youth coaches.
“You have to give the right measure of discipline and fun, so they want to be back,” said Wutzke, a retired teacher.
The Chargers are ranked No. 2 for the U-15 national championships in the Saskatchewan capital, running today through Monday, behind the Ontario champions from Toronto.