Former player Sydney Purvis now a U Sports head coach
Sydney Purvis didn’t aspire to be a head coach of a U Sports volleyball program. That’s because the former University of Manitoba Bisons setter never planned to get into coaching in the first place. “I was not going to be the athlete that goes into university and just gets a kinesiology degree,” said Purvis, a 29-year-old from Selkirk. “That was so common, right? I was like ‘Nope, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to forge my own path here.’”
But after some strong encouragement from Bisons head coach Ken Bentley, her path quickly went into another direction. Bentley saw a coach in his setter and recommended Purvis, who played for the Herd between 2010-2016, to start helping out with the Junior Bisons volleyball program.
“I said ‘Yeah, maybe when I’m done playing and I have more time. I’m not super interested.’ And he was like ‘No, no, I really think you should get into this now,’” said Purvis, who ended up graduating with a kinesiology degree.
“And then our next meeting, after our season was done that year, he gave me the schedule for a 13-under team that he was coaching and he was like ‘Here, I signed you up. You’re my assistant coach. Here’s the practices and you got to be at all of these.’ And I said ‘OK, sounds great.’ And then after that, it was pretty apparent that it was something that I wanted to do and pursue.”
Fast forward a decade and Purvis is now in charge of a U Sports team. Purvis, a national champion with the Bisons in 2014, was recently named the new head coach of the Memorial University Sea-Hawks in St. John’s, N.L.
“It’s super exciting. I’ve been looking for a couple of years now and was just applying to any job that came up right across Canada because U Sports volleyball positions are obviously few and far between,” said Purvis.
“So, I’ve been applying to everything under the sun and Memorial was the first one to reach out with an interview… I think they were pretty excited to find someone young and motivated to start the program up from junior all the way up to the varsity program.”
The Sea-Hawks, who play in the Atlantic University Sport conference, are a bit of a project as they are coming off a 2-13 season. But Bentley believes his prized pupil has what it takes to turn the ship around. Purvis was also an assistant to Bentley on the varsity Bisons team for the past three seasons.
“If you would ask Syd what she enjoyed the most about her university experience, she would say ‘I just love to practice.’ Clearly, a passion for the game is there,” said Bentley.
“… I just felt she had the personality and the grit and the grind to be successful as a coach because you need those things. She showed those things to me as an athlete and I felt like it was something she could carry into coaching and she has done that very well… (But) I mean, I preach patience to her. I know she will have an immediate and positive impact, but you just can’t put everything in place in a month. It will take some time. As long as she’s patient with her planning, her development, and especially recruiting, then I think she’ll be fine.”
Before Purvis takes her expertise to St. John’s, she’ll be working with Canada’s under-19 national team in Calgary in July. Shortly after that, she’ll make the trip out to the Atlantic province and start shaping the Sea-Hawks. Purvis wants to recruit Manitoba hard but also get to know the volleyball scene in Newfoundland.
“The cultural piece will be huge for me,” said Purvis.
“My ultimate goal for the first year is to create a super competitive environment and one that is also very desirable to be in and participate in.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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Credit: Former player Sydney Purvis now a U Sports head coach