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PARTI OF 2
They don't get paid, and they're never in the middle of a media scrum, but assistant
coaches are integral part of the team dynamic. Gateway sports editor Robin Collum
looks a little further down the bench to profile some of the University's best deputies.
WRITTEN BY ROBIN COLLUM WITH FILES FROM PAUL OWEN
PHOTOS BY RYAN HEISE AND KRYSTINA SULATYCKI
M ost university volley ha!! teams would
have a hard time trying to deckle
which they wanted on their coach¬
ing staff more: someone who has been involved
with the sport for more than three decades, or
someone with degrees in biomechanics and 3
specialized knowledge of the science of sport.
Luckily for the Pandas, they don’t have to choose,
as they have both in their technical coach. Dr
In addition to his PhD in biomechanics. Baudin
has been coaching volleyball—mostly at the U
of A—since the mid-TOs, including two stints
as head coach: behind the Pandas bench from
1978—80. and for the Bears from 1986-91.
"I’ve !>een on campus, with only a few breaks,
since 1971. either as a student, a professor, a grad¬
uate student, or a coach," he laughs. "I’ve been
around volleyball for a long, long time."
After his five years with the Bears. Baudin was
tired of the gruelling travel sdtedule, and decided
it was l>est to focus on his personal life.
”My family was at that age where it was
time for dad to be home a little bit more," he
But Baudin was far from done with volleyball,
so instead of leaving the Bears and Pandas pro¬
grams, he stepped down to his current role as
technical coach, even¬
tually focusing solely
on the Pandas. It’s a
posit ton that he feels
complements his day job
as a lecturer in the Faculty of
"Coaching the technical side lias
always been second nature to me.
■‘Coaching the technical side
lias always been second nature
to me. It s the part I enjoy the
most, and so that’s what 1 do."
Dr Pierre Baudin
It’s the part I enjoy the most, and so that’s what
I do." he says.
"It allows me to bring the real world into the
classroom, and 1 can take my' theoretical knowl¬
edge out with me to coach. Especially the biome¬
chanics and physiology knowledge I have, I can
take it to the court—we call it the living lab. For
me it’s a win-win. and I love to do it."
Because of Baudin’s specialization—as he
points out, taomeclianic volleyball coaches aren’t
common—Alberta has a certain edge over its
competition, which goes a king way towards
explaining die consistent quality of players the
Pandas program produces. The U of A lias made
it to nationals 13 times since he rejoined their
staff eight years in a row between 199.3—2000,
and every year since the 2002/03 season—and
have collected seven CIS banners in the process.
“Pierre's volleyball and sports-science back¬
ground really qualify him to be one of the top
technical coaches in the country," says Pandas
head coach Iattrie ELsler, who feels that the
clianges Baudin made to the team's blocking
last season played a big pan in their winning
the national champkinsliip. "Pierre lias a unique
ability lo analyze die skill execution and have an
immediate impact on the athlete’s performance
and lake them from one level lo the next level."
"Modest me, but I think [having me] is a big
advantage." Baudin says. “How does our third-
year athlete compare with a third-year athlete
that's at another institution? I would say gener¬
ally speaking that we take athletes farther than
those in other programs, and I think a large part
of that is that other programs don't have people
But it's not just him: Baudin gives credit for
Alberta’s dominance of the national volleyball
scene to Eisler—now in her 16th year at the U
of A—and the atmosphere she’s created for the
coaching staff He says that site trusts her assis¬
tant coaches and makes them feel valued, which
brings excellence and loyalty to die program.
“The environment that’s created here [helps],"
Baudin says. "When we went to nationals last
year... I think our ratio of coaching stall to ath¬
letes was one to one. I'm pretty certain there isn't
any other university team in the country-—of
any sport—that has that.
"it’s basically all volunteer, and the only reason
people keep volunteering is that you are allowed
to be a part of that national championship-win¬
ning team. 1 was a head coach, and I never did
win a national championship, so I never did have
that opportunity, but to be a part of it now—and
to actually feel a pan of it—that's really impor¬
tant. That's what keeps you coming back.”
Eisler. meanwhile, noted dial having Baudin’s
office just a few down front her own eases the
pressure she feels, especially when most teams
don’t have the luxury of having a second full¬
time employee on the coaching staff
"Having someone just down the halhvay as a
sounding board and for uncondit ional support—
coaching can lte a very isolating position—to
have his ear helps me to sleep at night," site says.
F or Cathy Butlin, coaching basketball isn't
just something she does on the side. She
has a master's degree in coaching from
the U of A: leads die senior girls’ team at Jasper
Place High School, where she teaches phys ed
and math; and is the top assistant coach for
the Pandas. She does it all because she loves
the game, and has a passion for sharing it with
“It’s very similar to nay career as a teacher,"
she says, explaining the appeal that coaching
holds for her. “It’s giving back to youth, shar¬
ing your experiences with them, and trying to
make them better people.
“That's the biggest thing I get from it: seeing
people grow, seeing them improve and them
being successful, and feeling that you had a
part in that."
Butlin has a long history with the Pandas
program, having been one herself She played
here as a
guard from 1996-2001. so she lias a lot of per¬
sonal experience as a student-athlete.
When she graduated, Butlin knew that she
was done with playing full-time, but wasn't
ready to give up the sport. So site decided to
combine her love of teacliiug and of basket¬
ball, and started coaching.
In fact, she liked it so much Lhat she went
hack to school for a master’s in coaching from
the U of A—becoming that program’s first-
ever graduate—before retumingto the Pandas.
This time, however, she was on the other end
of the bench, and found it to be a completely
new experience. She also found that she had a
lot to learn.
"I considered going full-time with coaching,
but at this point in my life, I just didn't feel diat it
was for me. and that’s why I’m teaching instead.
1 want to get more experience before I step into
a role like that." she explains. "Thai’s why 1
did my master's, too. 1 knew the basketball side
of it. but t lie re's so much more that tliere was
Butlin learned quickly, and is now an invalu -
able part of the Aberta coaching staff—to the
point that head coach Scott Edwards will |ok-
ingly call her the "associate head coach." She
works with the perimeter players during prac¬
tice, helps lay out strategy with Edwards, and
coordinates subbing during games. She is per¬
haps equally valuable to the players, however,
as a role model and confidante.
“She’s got a great personality and rap¬
port with athletes; she's young enough to
be not that far out of her [playing] career,
so she knows what they’re going through,"
Edwards says. “One of her greatest strengths
is her ability to talk to athletes on a one-
on-one basLs and bring out the best of them
individually—remind them of the good
parrs of their game when they're down on
in Butlin’s third year as
a player, the Pandas won
the national champion¬
ship. and they brought
home silver in her final
year as well. Her experience as a
Panda, and especially one who had
such a distinguished career, helps her
players connect to her. and. she feels, makes
her a better coach. Last season, Alberta went
to nationals for the first lime since Butlin
graduated, and her history was even more
"I have a lot to do with decision-making, and
they respect me for that but also just because I
played here and did well.”
“That’s tire biggest dung I get from
[ coaching]: seeing people grow,
seeing them improve and them
being successful, and feeling that
you had apart in dial”
Check back on Thursday for the second half of our series
on assistantcoaches, where we will profile Ron Thompson
from the track teams, and Ted Poplawski from the Bears