Part 3 in a 4-part series
Nathan Wareham feels he could’ve veered off in an entirely different direction when he was younger, if not for the support of teachers and coaches that kept him on a positive path.
His current position as one of the most successful volleyball coaches in the province was fostered by a desire to be that driving force for someone else.
“It’s always been about giving back and helping,” he said.
It all started innocuously enough, when the now-40-year-old was a still a high school student in the mid-1990s and volunteered to help coach a Grade 9 boys’ team in a tournament away from home.
“I honestly don’t even remember,” he said as to why he decided to take on the challenge.
“I think it was just to get a free trip maybe,” he added with a laugh. “Just get in the van and drive across the island.”
After high school, Wareham — who was also an avid volleyball player — separated himself from the sport entirely, for about eight years, until a friend invited him to help out with a team.
“It felt like a way to give back and, more importantly, keep me out of trouble,” he said. “It kind of just went from there.”
His love of the sport, as a player and a coach, is its reliance on teamwork. Unlike a game like basketball, which can be dominated at times by a single star player, he says, volleyball could never operate that way.
“You can be a superstar, but unless your teammates are good, you can’t do anything,” he said. “It’s just the nature of the sport.”
Success requires what he calls a “different type of athleticism” — footwork, arm work and the ability to think fast.
“When it’s played on a high level and played well, it’s quite fun to watch,” he said.
But coaching to win on the court is just one aspect of what Wareham has grown to desire.
A friend of his likes to say volleyball is life, but Wareham says it’s about life skills. It’s about grooming good people.
“We need future leaders,” he said. “Anything you can do to empower people to take control of their own destiny, so to speak, is something I strive for.
He coached with the Corner Brook Regional High Titans for a very successful majority of the past 12 years, before switching things up and guiding a Corner Brook Intermediate squad last year. He’s also been both an assistant coach and head coach of provincial entries with the Canada Games program and has been involved with the junior national team as well.
His satisfaction used to lie just in helping young athletes reach the varsity level of the game, but due to his involvement with the Canadian program, he’s now looking even further.
“Now my goal is to help athletes get to the national level,” he said. “Because we have produced a few in the province, it’d be nice to produce some more.”
That’s why his coaching preference has evolved into strictly club teams at the local level. He enjoyed his work with the schools, but the environment he feels he needs to help athletes put in the work they need can only come in a highly-focused club.
He plans to pursue every opportunity he can with the national program, then bring the information he’s gained back to share at the local level.
“And help athletes train to get to that pinnacle,” he said.
If he can help his proteges reach their goals, it outweighs any gold medal along the way.
He points at his most recent Canada Games team, which had high expectations, but ultimately fell short. Out of the 12 girls on the roster, nine are now representing universities at the Atlantic University Sport and Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association levels.
“They’ve been able to apply what they’ve learned and take it to the next level,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.”