Ramblers host Bearcats Sunday afternoon
AMHERST, N.S. – Burning hot and cold has proved to be an anxiety-filled style of play for fans watching the CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers in their last two games, both of which went to a shutout.
Megan Conroy is Volleyball Nova Scotia’s new technical director, where she’ll be focusing on growing beach and indoor volleyball in the province, with a focus on coach development.
LOCKHARTVILLE, N.S. - For Megan Conroy, volleyball is much more than a sport: it’s her life.
Her first tattoo was a volleyball emblazoned on her foot forever - that’s a commitment. She’s played the game for as long as she can remember, and now, she’s helping implement the sport across Nova Scotia.
Conroy fills the role of technical director with Volleyball Nova Scotia. Her mandate will be to foster the growth and development of beach and indoor volleyball, with a focus on coach development – a task that shouldn’t be too hard, as she’s spent years coaching teams at almost every level.
“Without coaches, it’s really tough for our sport to exist,” Conroy said. “One hundred per cent of our coaches through Volleyball Nova Scotia are volunteers, so without the coaches, our athletes can’t develop and we can’t run our programs.”
Conroy said coaches are often former players who finished their playing career and want to stay involved in the sport.
“Coaches are essentially the nucleus of volleyball in our province,” she said.
Conroy said developing new and existing coaches could involve connecting them with mentor coaches in their area, improving their skills through coaching clinics, and other initiatives.
Megan Conroy (far left) with the 2016 National Team Challenge Cup volleyball team at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
More coaches needed
When asked if there’s a shortage of volleyball coaches in Nova Scotia, Conroy’s answer was easy.
“We can always have more,” she said.
“I’m still learning on where the deficiencies in terms of numbers are and how we can help them out, but I think that may depend on the geography on where the team is. In certain areas, there’s a ton of volleyball coaches, and maybe in others another sport might be more prominent.”
But her job isn’t just about developing coaches. Conroy will also help with developing athletes through the provincial and national team programs.
“We’re always looking for ways to continue athlete development,” she said. “One of our development goals is to have more local athletes in the national team. To have athletes in those programs is one of our big goals.”
In the last year, Nova Scotia sent the highest number of athletes to national volleyball programs, eight, compared to just two during the year prior. Conroy said she wants to keep that momentum going.
New Nova Scotian
Conroy, who was born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, is fairly new to the province after moving to the Valley area in July 2014.
She played for Memorial University from 2004 until 2009, while obtaining her physical education degree, then coached the team for two more years after that while she got her bachelor of education.
Following her time at MUN, she taught in Newfoundland for five years and continued to coach volleyball.
Conroy moved to the region in 2014 with her partner and had been teaching locally until accepting the position with Volleyball Nova Scotia.
“I actually started coaching when I was in Grade 12, it was a boys team in high school that didn’t have a coach, so they asked me,” she said with a laugh. “I coached boys for my first two years of coaching, and since then I’ve coached girls.”
“Even before I moved here, I scoped out the scene in Nova Scotia to see if I could get into volleyball,” she said. “It’s a big part of who I am as a person, I’ve been playing since I was two years old.”
Conroy said her aunt, Joan Kelly, who was also actively involved in the sport, inspired her love of volleyball from a young age.
“She had an unbeatable work ethic,” Conroy said. “She’d play with her team and that wasn’t good enough so she’d practise with the guys. She just had that desire to work hard at no matter what she did.”
Conroy said she’s had a lot of ups and downs in her volleyball career, both as a player and a coach, but two moments stuck out to her.
“My graduating team in the 2013-2014 high school season, it was the last year I was going to coach at my school, I had brought that group of girls all the way through and had gotten quite close with a lot of them,” she said. “I’ve seen them have a lot of personal success on and off the court, and I was really proud to be their coach.”
The final game as a team was probably the worst game they had ever played, she admits.
“We played a team who we were life-long rivals with,” she said. “We just lost terribly, about 25-9, it just wasn’t our day. There was nothing we could do.”
It didn’t go their way, but that didn’t ruin the moment, Conroy said.
“When the game was over, there was a little bit of heartbreak because it was our last tournament together, but we all just started laughing and crying,” she said. “The next game was waiting to start but then everybody else in the gym started laughing and crying with us.”
Conroy’s fondest memory from her playing years also involved losing during a crucial match.
“It demonstrates that winning is not the only thing that matters,” she said. “If you asked me how many games I’ve won as a coach, I’d have no idea. I’ve probably lost more than I’ve won, but the memories of the people I’ve spent my time with and the impact I’ve had on players.”
Conroy said volleyball differs from other team sports because it relies on a fully cohesive team dynamic.
“You can’t play it by yourself, there can’t be one player that does everything because it’s against the rules of volleyball,” she said. “It is a true team sport, and you have to be able to rely on your teammates in order to be successful.”
It’s not enough to just have good players - they have to have chemistry, she said.
Megan Conroy (far right) with 16U Nova Scotia team in 2016.
Did you know?
Since moving to Lockhartville in 2014, Megan Conroy has been involved with coaching a variety of youth teams from 14U and 17U. She was assistant coach with Dalhousie University Women’s Volleyball Team, mentor coach with Avon View High School varsity and junior varsity teams, 14U and 16U Volleyball Nova Scotia Provincial Teams as well as assistant coach with the 2016 National Team Challenge Cup and 2017 Canada Games programs.