Gabriel DeGroot named new head coach

Men’s volleyball assistant coach since 2010 to fill place of retired head coach Brenda Willis

DeGroot coaching the Gaels.
Supplied by Gabriel DeGroot

For the first time since 1987, men’s volleyball will be seeing a fresh face pacing the sidelines—though it won’t be an entirely unfamiliar one. 

On Apr. 24, Queen’s Athletics announced that Gabriel DeGroot, who served as an assistant coach with the Gaels since 2010, will assume the team’s role of head coach. Degroot will succeed long-time tenured Gaels head coach Brenda Willis. 

Willis spent 31 seasons at the helm of the program and is considered one of Queen’s most accomplished coaches in recent history. In the 2017-18 campaign, she was named OUA Coach of the Year—the fifth time in her career to be honoured with the award—and led the Gaels to both the OUA finals and U Sports national championships. 

With last season’s team having 12 of its 17 players in either their first or second years, Degroot’s been left a roster abound with young talent. 

Along with coaching at Queen’s, DeGroot was the Team Ontario Assistant and Statistical Analyst at the Canada Summer Games in 2016 and 2017. He will also be spending the coming summer as an assistant coach with Volleyball Canada’s Senior B Men’s indoor team.

Degroot said that his wealth of experience outside of Queen’s has rendered him a variety of skills and abilities which he believes will help in his transition as  the Gaels head coach. 

“The sacrifice in time will be nothing compared to the experience and knowledge I will be able to bring back to our program here at Queen’s,” DeGroot said, alluding to his experiences coaching outside of Queen’s.  

The new head coach added one of his main focuses will be molding the Gaels into a cohesive group, a quality he thinks will allow them to distribute the ball freely around the court.

“I’ve always loved volleyball because of its focus and need for great team dynamic,” he said. “Great volleyball teams can at times have stars or stand out players, but you always need an amazing team.”

For the coming season, Degroot hopes to take his experiences as an assistant coach with the Gaels to address their strengths and weaknesses.  He said this will aid in targeting areas where the team needs to develop, and will further help the program build on their current young and promising foundation.  

In his eight years at Queen’s, DeGroot has found that his favourite part of coaching at Queen’s has been seeing the type of athletes the school attracts.

“It can be a challenge to balance the academic demands our athletes have at this institution, but it’s well worth the compromise to coach such intelligent athletes,” he said. “The type of athletes we get are always very driven, dedicated and disciplined.”

With the news of his position still fresh, DeGroot is excited not only to grab hold of a job he loves, but a position which he holds considerable respect for.

 “I love being around the game as much as I can be, whether that is working with athletes on the court or watching young prospects,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have a new position which gives me the opportunity to be around the game I love.”

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