Cougars volleyball coach looking ahead to 2021 Olympic aspirations
REGINA -- COVID-19 has changed everything about the summer of 2020 for the University of Regina Cougars Volleyball team, including Olympic plans for their head coach.
The Cougars resumed practicing on Wednesday, but regular practice plans have been spiked.
Until University restrictions lesson, the team won’t be able to practice many game scenarios, as physical distancing and ball contact between teammates is limited.
But six-on-six team play isn’t the only thing missing from Head Coach Melanie Sanford’s summer plans.
“It was always my dream to go to the Olympics,” said Sanford, a three time U-Sports volleyball champion with the Saskatchewan Huskies.
Sanford, who has been inducted into the Saskatchewan and Canada West Hall of Fames, was a volleyball star. She made the Canadian National Team and had dreams of representing Canada at the 1980 Olympics, but Canada boycotted the games.
Then in 2018, Sanford starting working with the FIVB, volleyball’s international governing body. She hoped she might have a second shot at her Olympic dream.
“I wanted to be assigned to go to the Olympics of course,” said Sanford. “I just felt that because I’m pretty new the chances would be slim.”
But in January, on a road trip with the Cougars, she got the offer of a lifetime from the FIVB.
“My second assignment for the summer was to go to the Olympics, and work as a technical delegate.”
“I remember finding out and everyone was so, so happy for her, that’s such a great opportunity,” said Emma Matheson, a Cougars player.
The position carries huge responsibility. The technical delegate coordinates all aspects of the indoor volleyball competition at the Tokyo Games.
“I think I cried. I was so excited,” Sanford said, who admits the role has many duties. “Overseeing everything from court set up to the medical area to doping. Watching matches and acting as a game match president.”
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19. However, the FIVB’s plan is to maintain the same assignments for next year. So Sanford, who was suppose to be in Japan right now, is hoping she gets another opportunity next year.
“Of course it’s disappointing that the Olympics are postponed, but again, I don’t have control over a pandemic so I’m really hoping next summer it happens.”