Former national team setter at camp with son
Scott Koskie is no stranger to wearing red and white.
After five seasons with the University of Manitoba Bisons where he won a pair of national titles, was named an all-Canadian three times and claimed a national player of the year award, the setter from Winnipeg went on to play 13 years on the national volleyball team between 1995-2007. He played more than 300 matches for his country and was Canada’s captain for six years.
Koskie, now 49 and employed as Volleyball Manitoba’s high-performance provincial coach, finds himself repping the country’s colours yet again as he’s currently in Gatineau, Que., working as an assistant coach for Volleyball Canada’s men’s national excellence program. But Koskie wasn’t the only person from his household to make the trip.
His son Darian, a standout middle blocker for the Bisons, was one of 19 players from across the country who were invited to take part in the program that’s based out of the Centre Sportif de Gatineau. Selkirk native Mikael Clegg, a setter for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen, also scored an invite. The program, which is designed to give top Canadian players who are stuck in lockdown an opportunity to train, started Monday and runs until March 26.
“It’s such a special and a unique opportunity. To be able to share this moment with Darian, as he starts out figuring out the international game, it’s hard to put into words. It’s a really, really special opportunity,” Koskie told the Free Press on Wednesday between training sessions.
“It’s just really cool to go to the gym every day and watch him push himself, learn and grow, all those things that you saw as a parent when they’re smaller growing up. Once they’re 19, there’s not a lot of opportunities where you can experience this again. I’m grateful for every day because it’s an awesome experience. Hopefully, he will take his own lessons from it but I kind of share the experiences that I had and know how exciting it was when I was his age.”
Considering how Darian has been limited to working out with resistance bands at home, you can imagine he jumped all over the opportunity to train with some of the country’s best who don’t play professionally overseas. In the big picture, he’s hoping he can impress and earn a spot on the under-21 roster next year. Right now he’s more focused on knocking off the rust, as he hasn’t played since October owing to Manitoba’s pandemic restrictions. But for Darian, having his dad right there with him makes his first taste of the national program even sweeter.
“I grew up watching him play for Canada when I was really little. I don’t think I’ve even completely taken it in and appreciated it yet. But it’s a crazy experience,” said Darian, who stands at 6-6.
“This has always been a dream of mine, even to just train and represent my country, not even necessarily play… We’ve only been here for a couple of days but it’s been a surreal experience.”
As prospective Olympic athletes, the program has a government exemption that allows them to train despite COVID-19 restrictions. Players are required to fill out a health questionnaire each morning and everyone in the program is instructed to not see anyone outside of the group. Darian is living in a rented house with five other players while the coaches have been set up in individual suites. The program is being led by Oakville, Ont., native Dan Lewis, a former Bison who led the Herd to a national title in 1996 and was named the MVP. For Koskie and Lewis, one of the biggest challenges for the former teammates is getting players to slowly ease back into things.
“You can see the drive and desire to do the things that they would normally do, but the result isn’t there yet,” said Koskie, who also has a younger son, Noah, who will be playing volleyball at the University of Windsor next year.
“That’s our job as coaches, to manage that enthusiasm. Then another reality is you don’t want to let that turn into frustration because you can’t do what you normally do. So, yeah, you can definitely see it. Dan’s biggest job here so far is to hold the guys back a bit. They’re in the gym and they just want to let it rip.”
When Koskie was offered a spot as an assistant coach, the first person he asked for permission to go was, of course, his wife, but after that, he went to Darian. He wanted to make sure his son didn’t mind his old man being there with him. Darian had no issue with it, as he often goes to his dad for advice on how to get better. Considering how Koskie is one of the best volleyball players to ever come out of Manitoba, he’s probably not a bad person to ask.
“I definitely take pride in that. We don’t play the same position, so there are not too many comparisons that can be made,” Darian said.
“But it definitely comes in handy, though, because the setter watches the floor all the time. They know where everybody should be, so he’s very insightful on giving me tips to play middle.”
Koskie now has to make sure he shares those tips during the day as Quebec has enforced a curfew that requires residents to be in their homes from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in hopes of slowing down the spread of the virus. No complaints, though, as both Koskies are thrilled to be back on the court doing what they love to do.
“Yeah, this is gonna be a lot of fun and I’m getting to catch up on my sleep with this curfew,” joked Koskie.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.