Coach’s Corner: Shane Smith builds a new culture for the MRU women’s volleyball team
By George Potter, Staff Writer
The Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars have a new coach in town. Women’s volleyball interim head coach Shane Smith brings passion and experience to the team. Smith coached in a variety of different roles at both the college and professional levels in Denmark. The Cougars are proud to welcome Smith as well as assistant coach Donata Huebert, Smith’s longtime coaching staff comrade.
“We’ve worked together a number of times, and it’s really great. We talk volleyball at home all the time, we share a lot of the same ideas and we challenge each other’s ideas and are really supportive of each other. So, I love it. I think it’s great that we do it and it’s really enjoyable for us,” said Smith.
Throughout their careers, Smith and Huebert have coached all sorts of teams. One of their biggest coaching highlights was their stint in Europe for two Danish teams. They coached one women’s team called Elite Volley Aarhus in 2017-18, which led to the team’s most successful season in franchise history. Smith was voted the Coach of the Year in Denmark for his efforts. They also led the Gentofte Volley men’s team to a championship in the 2018-19 season.
“It is really a great learning opportunity to be in a totally different culture and to learn about how Danish people work and what makes them tick. And then try to build a culture with that group and make a successful team,” said Smith.
Since COVID-19 affected the Cougars women’s volleyball team’s historic 2019-20 season, it was very exciting to see them finally return to the game after a long time off. Cougars fourth-year outside hitter Madison Marshall says it’s been great to come back and to learn from their new coaches.
“It’s been very exciting to have Shane and Donata and their family here. Every day, we’re learning so many new things. Especially with seven new girls, it’s been so great to be able to get to know each and every one of them, as well as our systems. It’s just been so much learning and now we’re starting to finally put the pieces together,” said Marshall.
Currently, the Cougars women’s volleyball team is ranked eighth in the country. However, the season is far from over and the team has been working hard to reach its full potential.
“We try to focus more on getting better every day in our gym. And so we try not to focus too much on those kinds of external things and how other people see us. We know what kind of team we want to be and we’ll just work to get better every day,” said Smith.
For Marshall, it’s all about consistency and not getting too far ahead of herself.
According to Marshall, “we’re not so stressed about where we’re placed right now, we’re just taking it every weekend at a time.”
One new way the team plans to mix it up moving forward is by establishing a culture led by the players. The Cougars hope it leads them into a successful new era.
“Our meetings and our training often are led by the players and they’re given a lot of responsibility for team activities and team decisions. We’re just trying to empower them to give everything they can to our program, and then we hope that we’ll be the best that we can be in the end,” said Smith.