Women’s volleyball grabs Galbraith

Members of the women’s volleyball team track the ball.
Members of the women’s volleyball team track the ball.

If there exists a battle of the sexes, then the women have won this round: Chris Galbraith, an assistant coach with the Gaels’ men’s volleyball team for the past three years, will be stepping up to take the reins of the women’s team next season.

On June 7, Queen’s Athletics announced they had selected Galbraith to fill the shoes of departing women’s head coach Jamie Mastorakos, who held the post for the last four years.

“I’m very excited; this is a great opportunity,” Galbraith said. “[Taking the position] was a tough decision, since I really enjoyed my work with the men’s team, but I’m sure they’ll be more than fine without me.”

A Queen’s alumnus who holds a BSc in Applied Math and Engineering as well as a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Galbraith is no stranger to excellence in volleyball. He has coached a number of successful teams at the university, provincial, club and high school levels.

He served as the coach of the Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute senior men’s and women’s teams that won eight Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association championships . He also coached the 2001 U20 Boys’ Provincial silver medal-winning team, and the group that captured the Juvenile Elite gold medal at the 2004 Ontario Summer Games.

“Chris is an astute coach [who] has had a very successful coaching record with both male and female teams,” John McFarlane, the chair of Queen’s Athletics, said in a press release.

Galbraith himself isn’t concerned about the transition back to the women’s game.

“There’s a big difference in the outlooks that male and female athletes have, so [as a coach] there will be some changes in my approach in terms of how I handle the athletes,” he said. “But it’s still volleyball.”

Last year, the lady Gaels posted an uneven record and missed a spot in the OUA playoffs by one point. Almost all of the starters from that team have graduated or run out of eligibility, so Galbraith said he is looking forward to working with a fairly young group.

“I’m just waiting to see who comes out,” he said. “My obvious goal [for the season] is to make sure we’re competitive every day.” To that end, Galbraith has hired a strength and conditioning coach to improve team fitness, and Galbraith is developing off-season training programs to get the players in shape.

“In the past, it was left to the athletes to go the gym on their own, but now we’re trying to make it more of a team thing,” Galbraith said.

He is a big believer in the value of hard work, but he remains aware of the many challenges facing student athletes.

“I think it’s important to recognize the lives of the students, [and] to fit the programs into that, but we still want to be competitive in the OUA,” he said.

To reach that goal, Galbraith is prepared to do everything he can, and he’ll expect the same of his players.

“Most of the athletes I’ve worked with have found I’m a dedicated coach, and I demand the same dedication from my players,” he said. “I believe in hard work, and I don’t really tolerate anyone who’s not willing to work as hard as I am.” Galbraith’s determination and coaching successes are unexpected if you look at where he started: his first coaching experience was “kind of a joke,” he said. Galbraith, who’d played on club teams in his youth, was brought in as a volleyball expert to the high school where a friend taught. According to Galbraith, his friend was “the low man on the totem pole” and as such had been assigned to coach a volleyball team.

Galbraith has vastly improved in the years since that first joking try; he’s put in the time and effort to get better, and he’s always learning.

“I’ve improved from working with great coaches like Brenda Willis [the head coach of the Queen’s men’s team] for three years, and from investing in the training and certifications,” he said.

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