Photo by Tony Wonghen
Some might say third time lucky, but in fact it was well-rehearsed and well-delivered effort that netted the McMath Wildcats the 2018 Richmond Secondary Schools junior girls volleyball championship.
Yearning for an award that eluded them during their first two years of playing at the high school level, the Wildcats simply wouldn't be denied. Working hard throughout the season, some even attending the Richmond Olympic Oval's morning program, the players made the sacrifices that accompany all successful endeavours. And even those who played infrequently were steadfast in their support of the team.
"They really came together to formulate, pursue and achieve their goal" says coach Kevin Shen. "The team practiced three times a week and the girls even learned how to officiate matches in order to see the game from a different angle. I am very happy for them. Ultimately this group of individuals bonded to face each challenge as a team and overcome them to become city champions."
While the Wildcats did not enjoy the success they were hoping for at the Vancouver and district finals, eliminated by the North Shore's St Thomas More Knights, it wasn't for a lack of effort or cohesion.
Shen says it is increasingly clear that it takes both talent and commitment to succeed today. And even then there are no guarantees.
"In comparison to when I was growing up, volleyball has become far more popular and the participation and competition levels have constantly been on the rise," he says. "In addition to more media, facilities and programs in Richmond such as Air Attack and the Centre of Excellence at the oval have driven volleyball to become incredibly popular."
He adds with an increasing level of competition in the city, it is more crucial than ever for athletes to focus not only on training to perform but also on training their minds and on eating and resting well--on top of keeping their academics as a top priority.
Shen says he expects many of the Wildcats will try out for the school's senior team next season, but because he's only teaching temporarily at McMath he is unsure if he'll be available to coach though he stressed he'd welcome the opportunity.