Coach Josephson looks for community-minded players

Listen to Ben Josephson's interview on Pulse 107 with Kash Heed.

These days, Spartans men’s volleyball head coach Ben Josephson just cannot take his eyes off the television screen, despite being busy preparing for the upcoming season.

That’s because Josephson is cheering on his former players Rudy Verhoeff, Dan Jansen Van Doorn, Steve Marshall and Chaim Schalk, who are all competing at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. Verhoeff, Jansen Van Doorn and Marshall are playing on Team Canada’s men’s volleyball team, while Schalk is part of the men’s beach volleyball team. Both teams are still competing in their tournament.

“It’s been awesome and surreal watching them play. It’s pretty special,” Josephson said. “I’m remembering these guys when they were freshmen at TWU. They were already pretty special athletes.”

Under Josephson’s coaching, TWU has become a volleyball powerhouse in Canada, winning U Sports national championships in 2011 and 2012, and the silver medal in 2010 and 2015. Josephson was named U Sports and Canada West Coach of the Year in 2012 and 2014.

The Strathmore, Alta. native describes himself as a volleyball nut who never really left the TWU campus.

“You can say I either fear change or I really love this place,” he said. “It’s probably a little bit of both.”

Josephson played for the university volleyball team from 1998 to 2003. During his last year, he not only received the U Sports All-Canadian Award, a TWU first, but was also named a Canada West First Team All-Star.

While working for a small college in Colorado, Josephson was approached by Ron Pike, his former TWU volleyball coach, who was looking to find and train his future replacement.

“It was a great experience playing for Coach Pike,” he said. “When he approached me, I had never planned on coaching.”

Josephson was in fact planning to move to Europe with his wife and try his luck with the professional volleyball leagues there. Instead, the couple moved to Langley and Josephson started his coaching career.

After being assistant coach for three years, Josephson was promoted to head coach after Pike retired at the end of the 2007 season.

 With so many former players participating at the Rio Olympics, journalists have become curious as to what is the Spartans program’s secret to its success.

“We’re honoured that people are interested to see where the guys came from,” Josephson said. “It’s reinforcement that we’re doing a good job. The guys are great ambassadors.”

When recruiting new players for the team, Josephson looks for guys who will play well together and will care about each other.

“Our team is a tight unit,” he said. “Volleyball embodies so many principles of TWU.”

Josephson believes that the greatest part of the university is its strong community aspect. So he just looks for players who will value community.

He also takes into account the influence the players will have on his three children.

“My kids love the big guys,” Josephson said. “The athletes play with my kids and babysit them.”

While his three children are too young to start playing volleyball, Josephson and his wife have them play a game of who can keep the balloon up. However, Josephson hopes his children will take up golf instead of volleyball.

“I want them to play golf so I can retire as a caddy,” he said.

The Spartans volleyball season starts on Sept. 30 with a tournament at Queen’s University.

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