The people who make it happen

Queen’s head coaches say they deserve more money for the work they do

Brenda Willis, seen here with setter Devon Miller in a Feb. 9 game, said management and leadership skills are equally essential in being an effective head coach.
Brenda Willis, seen here with setter Devon Miller in a Feb. 9 game, said management and leadership skills are equally essential in being an effective head coach.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo
Women’s basketball head coach Dave Wilson, seen here in a Feb. 2 game against the York Lions, started coaching while he was playing for the Queen’s men’s basketball team.
Women’s basketball head coach Dave Wilson, seen here in a Feb. 2 game against the York Lions, started coaching while he was playing for the Queen’s men’s basketball team.
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Men’s rugby head coach Peter Huigenbos said a coach’s role is a broad one, but it all comes back to helping athletes.

“It’s a mix of many different things but primarily just providing an atmosphere in which student-athletes can become better at a chosen sport,” he said.

Huigenbos works as a manager of partnerships and initiatives with the City of Kingston in addition to his role as a coach. He said it can be difficult to juggle the two jobs, but the city understands how much time coaching requires.

“It’s very, very tough,” he said. “The city has been an excellent employer.”

Huigenbos said he spends at least 30 hours a week on coaching duties during the season not counting road trips, even though he’s considered a part-time coach.

“What we do is definitely a full-time job,” he said. “Our pay does not reflect the hours.”

Huigenbos declined to reveal his exact salary, but said he doesn’t coach for the money. “I consider it a full-time volunteer position,” he said.

He has to use vacation days at his city job for team events such as playoffs and tours, he said.

Some Ontario schools either have full-time men’s rugby coaches or have coaches who work elsewhere in their universities, Huigenbos said, making it easier for them to find the time to coach.

Huigenbos said he started helping out with the rugby team after graduation. He hadn’t planned on becoming a head coach but took the job when Queen’s offered it to him in 2004.

Huigenbos said he doesn’t regret his decision to take on the job, despite the difficulties it presents with organizing his work and home life.

“No, not for a second,” he said. “Rugby people are stupid that way. … What I put in, I get back tenfold from the players.”

Women’s rugby head coach Beth Barz said she enjoys coaching at Queen’s because of the chance to work with players every day.

“There’s a great opportunity there because I’m dealing with very intelligent athletes,” she said. “When I get to see these athletes every day for an hour and a half, their performance really vaults up.”

Barz said she was always interested in becoming a coach because of a lack of women in the field.

“From a very young age, I believed women should coach women,” she said.

Barz started coaching when she was 17. She works with the Canadian women’s under-20 team, and spends 25 to 30 hours a week during the rugby season on coaching duties at Queen’s in addition to her full-time job as a teacher with the Limestone School District. She said it’s tough to juggle two jobs.

“You always feel like you don’t have enough time.”

Barz said most women’s rugby coaches in Ontario universities are part-time. She said she sees coaching as a second job, but she prefers it to her full-time work.

“I have my real job, the one that pays the bills, and then the one that I’m really passionate about,” she said.

Men’s hockey head coach Brett Gibson works as a part-time coach in addition to running a long-term care facility.

“I may be titled part-time, but the effort I put into this job is full-time,” he said. “If you want your program to reflect in results, you have to put in a full-time effort.”

Gibson said he’s barely able to balance the two jobs.

“I’m lucky enough to have my own business so I can juggle the two acts,” he said.

Gibson said he coaches because he loves hockey, not for the salary.

“One hundred per cent of my passion is hockey,” he said. “The reason I do it is because of my love of the game, not anything more than that, but the second part of that is you need to be compensated for the work you do, too.”

Gibson said he wants to see Queen’s make the men’s hockey coach a full-time position.

“The title doesn’t mean much to me, but I just want to be respected for the work I do.”

Men’s volleyball head coach Brenda Willis teaches a third-year PhysEd course on the art and science of coaching. She said successful coaches need to incorporate management and leadership.

“Lots of coaches are good at one or the other, but you really have to invest in both to be an effective coach.”

Willis has been coaching at Queen’s for 20 years. She said the athletics department has done a lot over the years to reduce the number of tasks coaches have to deal with.

“At the very beginning, I remember, at home games I had to worry about turning on the music, making sure the lines and flags are out and that the game balls were pumped up,” she said. ”Now I walk in, coach my team, and walk out.”

Willis used to co-ordinate campus recreation in addition to her teaching and coaching roles. She said the department’s allowing her to focus on coaching now. Seven out of the 11 OUA schools with men’s volleyball programs have full-time head coaches, she said.

Men’s volleyball setter Devon Miller said there’s a big upside to having full-time coaches.

“A full-time coach for sure has a lot of advantages,” he said. “There’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of organization. The time and commitment is incredible.”

Women’s basketball head coach Dave Wilson, who just completed his 27th year with the program and 26th as head coach, said he was drawn to coaching through his love of teaching.

“I grew up knowing that I wanted to teach,” he said. “That was always my goal, and PhysEd was always my passion. In terms of basketball, once the opportunity to get involved with coaching happened, I sort of discovered that coaching was like teaching under pressure, and I liked that even more.”

Wilson said he got his first coaching job at Queen’s by accident while he was still playing on the men’s team.

“At that point, the women’s team didn’t have a coach, and I knew a number of the players because they were in PhysEd and I was in PhysEd, and they just asked if I would mind getting them started with tryouts and stuff like that until they got a coach,” he said.

Wilson said injuries that hurt his playing career pushed him towards coaching as a career.

“I’d had some back injuries in basketball, so they offered me the job again and I took it.”

Wilson serves as the athletics department’s co-ordinator of marketing and advertising as well as a head coach. He said he’s had other positions in the department for the last 26 years as well.

“I always had another responsibility,” he said. “Basketball was actually less than half of my workload. The most it ever was was 40 per cent, and 60 per cent was some other assigned duties.”

Wilson said the department’s planning to make his coaching job full-time this year, in accordance with the Athletics Review’s emphasis on funding full-time coaches.

Wilson said it’s always a struggle to keep up with other schools in the resources put towards coaching.

“If you look at Canada West, they’re moving into full-time coaches and full-time assistants,” he said. “We’re just getting to the point where we’re trying to get a full-time head coach.”

Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin couldn’t be reached for comment by the Journal’s press time, but told the Journal in September that she wants to see full-time coaches at Queen’s.

“ I think that if we are competitive with other major institutions, we’re looking at a minimum of football being full-time, men’s and women’s basketball being full-time, men’s and women’s volleyball being full-time, and then the hockey [programs] would be the next part of the equation,” she said. “That would be consistent with what our competitors are doing, and when people are evaluating coming to the institution, they look at those things: the time they’re going to be able to spend with their coaches.”

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