NGWSD: Women's volleyball assistant coach Jodi Zybszewski addresses the significance of women in the sports industry

The assistant coach of the UBC women’s volleyball team, Jodi Zbyszewski, shared how she became involved in coaching and her experience in the industry as a woman in sports.

“I find people think women and girls in sport are people playing [on the court or in the field]. But it doesn't really matter — we want people involved because sport is a lifelong journey. And if you can stay involved in it somehow … It's just such a cool community," Zbyszewski said.

The Vancouver-based coach moved to Toronto to raise a family and sought after ways to simultaneously make a living while taking care of her children. There, she became involved with a volleyball club as a coach, training girls of all ages from seven to provincial teams. Through these experiences, she realized her passion for coaching and working with young girls in sports.

“I knew just by being out in Ontario, how much I fell in love with coaching and that really became my passion,” said Zbyszewski. “Being able to work with young girls and women and be a part of their life in sports but also in helping them use sport in other aspects of their lives as they grew older.”

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Since she grew up in Vancouver, she reached out to UBC women’s volleyball coach Doug Reimer for work opportunities and debuted as the assistant coach this season, which she found ironic since she used to play for the Trinity Western University Spartans — “one of UBC’s biggest rivals."

"There are young women who are in a pretty cool part of their lives, where they're coming out of high school, going into the real world and being able to help them grow in their volleyball journey — that just became such a passion of mine,” said Zbyszewski about the team.

According to Zbyszewski, the UBC women’s volleyball team has embraced her role as both a coach and a mother — welcoming her children whenever they would sit in during their practices and treating her family like they are part of the team.

“They make it really easy to be a mom and a coach. So I can do my job better because of the flexibility that they give me in my life,” she said.

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Zbyszewski said she feels like she became a better coach because of the people she surrounded herself with. She credited the team, the coaching staff and the "autonomy they've given me to grow and develop and help make decisions and be fully involved hands-on."

However, she also realizes that many women in the industry do not have the same support systems that accommodate motherhood and wishes to see more of that in the future.

Zbyszewski mentioned that she has seen change since her days as the Spartans — such as former players coming back to be volunteer coaches, varsity players coaching for club teams, as well as seeing more women on the bench in coaching positions. However, she said “it’s still been quite slow” and that she “still thinks [women are] underrepresented and [have] a long way to go.”

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“The Canucks — I think — just hired a female in their head office, and it's breaking news. We kind of want to get to the point where it's not breaking news — it's just normal,” she said.

According to Zbyszewski, NGWSD should be about celebrating women in sports in all the fields, not just in the court or the field, but in coaching, refereeing, strength and conditioning and management.

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Yesterday, February 2, was National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NSWSD).