Local couple bumped into hall of fame

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Thirty-five years of participation in volleyball recognized

Two St. Albertans received one of the highest honours the volleyball community in Alberta can offer.

Dave and Doreen Ross, who live in Kingswood, were inducted into the builders’ category of the Alberta Volleyball Hall of Fame June 25 at the Alberta Volleyball Association’s annual awards banquet in Edmonton.

Dave said that, in addition to the induction, it was a great chance to catch up with others from the volleyball community.

“It was awesome,” Dave said. “I was great to see a lot of faces we haven’t seen in a long time from all over Alberta. … it was really nice to see them, reminisce and laugh about some old situations and volleyball tournaments.”

The couple has spent more than 35 years coaching and building the sport in the province. Dave said it was the couple’s desire to share their passion with younger generations that kept them going.

“Mostly it was loving the game, but in loving the game it was wanting to turn kids on to the game and have them get excited about what a great game it was and how complex it was to play at a high level,” he said.

Terry Gagnon, executive director of the Alberta Volleyball Association, said the organization was thrilled to have the Rosses among their honourees.

“It’s a really huge deal,” Gagnon said. “We just started about seven years ago with our hall of fame and obviously we’ve got tons of amazing people that have done things in Alberta. But the really exciting thing is [recognizing]people who got things started back in the old kitchen-table days like the Rosses.”

The only other inductee for 2011 was Jenny Cartmell, a Sherwood Park native who won Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships (CIS) in all five years she played with the University of Alberta Pandas.

Gagnon said the criteria for induction into the hall of fame are pretty stringent.

“We take it fairly seriously about who gets in. They have to put in a fairly major commitment, especially in the builder category,” he said. “Just being around and helping out with your kid’s team for five years doesn’t cut it. You’ve have to have made a significant impact to the sport, and not just to a small group — it’s an impact to, for example, a whole city, like the Rosses.”

Highlights of the Rosses’ lengthy volleyball credentials include the founding of the Edmonton Friars Volleyball Club, which operated from 1975 to 1998 and at one point was the largest club in Western Canada; the founding of the Edmonton Volleyball Association, which still operates today and features almost 200 teams, making it the largest city league in North America; starting up the Western Canadian Volleyball Championships; serving as venue co-ordinators for the 1983 World University Games and long careers coaching high school volleyball in Edmonton — Doreen with Archbishop O’Leary and Dave with Louis St. Laurent.

The couple were nominated by Hugh Hoyles, himself a member of the hall of fame and the founder of the renowned Jasper Volleyball Camp.

“We were honoured and, to be honest, quite surprised,” Dave said.

The couple first got involved in volleyball through their jobs teaching in the Edmonton Catholic school system.

“We didn’t have this big history of club ball like a lot of the kids today have,” he said. “Doreen, she was interested from her university days with the old Phoenix volleyball club.

“Shortly after we married, we went to the first Jasper Volleyball Camp, and the main guy was sort of a guru from Japan, then we got really excited about volleyball.”

Looking back on more than 35 years of involvement, though, Dave said it’s sometimes hard to believe it has been that long, although his body often reminds him.

“My body tells me that when I wake up in the morning, big time. A lot of us were all talking about the different surgeries we’ve had and the aches and the pains,” he laughed. “But the mind is still willing and it really doesn’t feel like that long ago.”

Today, the Rosses have scaled back their involvement somewhat, but Doreen still referees, and while Dave is on a self-imposed hiatus, his daughter is trying to get him back into coaching.

“Oh man, I definitely have the itch to coach,” he said with a laugh. “And Doreen really enjoys the reffing. And we still have our finger on the pulse a little bit; we still go to the Bear and Panda games all the time.”

Gagnon said that’s a testament not only to the appeal of volleyball but to the power of sport in general.

“They’re really fit people and active too, which tells you a lot about lifelong sport, being involved in things and health and wellness,” he said.

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