Men's volleyball coach of 12 years fired over performance

On April 1, UBC announced that head volleyball coach of 12 years Richard Schick was “parting ways” with the team.

“We did a program evaluation and looked at our pattern of results over the last 12 years and we want to raise the bar with the volleyball program. We needed to make a change to do that,” said Gord Hopper, the director of Athletics Performance and Team Services, in an interview with The Ubyssey.

“In 12 years, we have had two visits to the CIS championships and in the last five years, we haven’t had any whereas 40 per cent of the teams in the CIS have attended the championships. We need a stronger record than that from the volleyball team,” Hopper explained.

Hopper came to the decision to fire Schick after consulting internally and talking to players and alumni. UBC does not have a new coach in mind and will open hiring as they would for any other position. 

“It will be tough to find a coach that is better than Rich,” said second-year player Byron Keturakis. 

Schick, who did not respond to an interview request, has been at UBC for 12 years with a UBC career record of 174-142 — a 55 per cent win record — and has had multiple players represent Canada on the national level in volleyball and beach volleyball. After missing the playoffs this year, Schick finished off the season by saying, “No matter if you win or lose, it's gaining the respect of your opponents, your fans and the people around you. Leaving that gym tonight, we could all hold our heads up high.”

While Schick’s record may not be the best around, he improved the team in terms of rankings, during his tenure. CanWest volleyball is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, divisions in Canada. This year, three of the top four teams in the CIS were from CanWest. However, each conference sends the same number of teams to the championship, leaving little margin for error in CanWest.

But winning wasn’t everything to Schick.

“He cared about the process, he cared about us getting better and playing well, not necessarily the result,” explained Joel Regehr, a third-year player with the team.

UBC Athletics has four pillars in their strategic framework — athletic success, student athlete success, community engagement and alumni engagement. The pillars, however, are not equally weighted according to Hopper and the decision to fire Schick was made around athletic success and not the other pillars.

Schick’s athletes painted a picture of a passionate coach who led the team by example, cared about his players performances and their well-being, and was always striving to improve.

“[Schick's] a great role model. He really cares about his players and he has a huge relationship with alumni at UBC and at the younger alumni that he coached,” said Keturakis. “People have a lot of respect for him in the volleyball community and the UBC community.”

Regehr echoed this sentiment. “He was very passionate. You could tell he cared about each guy on the team and how they were doing performance wise and how they were doing in their lives.”

“He’s more than a coach. He’s always been a mentor and a friend of mine, a guy you could talk to even outside the game,” said fifth-year setter Milan Nikic. “Because of that sort of culture [of competition] that I was trained in for five years, now I can go into a gym and hold myself to those same standards. I don’t need someone else to hold me to those standards.”

Hopper said he had “tremendous respect for Rich,” but the decision came down to athletic success and winning more games. 

“You can cite a statistic and those things, but what has been failed to say is the kind of program he developed. He deserves to be quoted on more than his statistics,” said Nikic.