UGA's Tom Black Announced as Canadian Women's National Team Head Coach
Volleyball Canada has announced American Tom Black as the next coach of the Canadian women’s National team for the next two years as the team tries to qualify for the 2020 Olympics for the first time since 1996.
Black will be bringing 7 years of National team experience to Vancouver, serving as a consultant coach for the USA’s women’s National team from 2010-2012, then joining Karch Kiraly’s coaching staff for the 2016 Olympic quad. During his time with the USA WNT, the California native helped the team capture the 2014 FIVB World Championships, as well as picking up a Bronze from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
On the domestic side of things, Black has been the Head Coach for the University of Georgia’s women’s volleyball program since 2017, taking a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 2013 and leading them to a 22-10 record in his first season with the Bulldogs, and holds a 37-26 record in two season. Before Georgia, he coached the women’s team at Loyola Marymount University, leading them to a 127-86 record over the course of 7 seasons (2010-2016), as well as serving as Head Coach for LMU’s Beach Volleyball team from 2012-2016. He’s also spent time as Head Coach of UC San Diego (2005-2009 | 115-29 - Division II), the Assistant Coach of USC’s Men’s team (2003-2005), as well as working as a club Director for Santa Monica Beach Club while seeing success coaching both high school and club in Southern California.
As a player, Black played four seasons for the UCSD Tritons - being named the 1996 AVCA Small Colleges Player of the Year.
On our end - this looks like a top rate hire by Volleyball Canada. Black has a wealth of experience coaching. Most importantly, he’s seen first-hand what it takes to be a top team in the world, and after 7 years at the heart of arguably the best system in the world - he’s seen how to run a program top to bottom. Finally - he’s a North American coach, something the women’s National team hasn’t had since the early 2000’s with Lorne Sawula.
While his experience and speaks for itself - it’s that last point that might make the biggest difference. There’s no doubt past coaches knew the game at a high level - but coming from European or Asian systems, foreign coaches often lack understanding how the North American system works. Coming from Professional programs, many of them are used to coaching the players they’re given - who are often some of the best in the world and hardened veterans. Coaching in North America means working with student-athletes who aren’t quite there yet with the level of professionalism - leading to a disconnect with the athletes.
With Black - there’ll be none of that. Furthermore - his 14 years of University coaching prepares him perfectly to help develop Canada’s young and promising roster. Not to mention - he’s probably watched a number of them over the past few years in the NCAA.
There’s no doubt we’ve seen improvement with the woman’s National team over the past two years with Marcello Abondanza - with the team picking up some big wins, like the one against the Dominican Republic at the Pan Am Cup, before narrowly missing out on the 2nd Round at the World Championships and finishing 17th. While Abondanza’s tenure didn’t necessarily produced the results necessary - there was no doubt a change in attitude within the women’s National team. After two years with the Italian, the Lady Maples employed a more aggressive and detailed game-style. Sometimes, you need a hard-nosed approached to turn a program around - and that’s exactly what Abondanza provided.
This approach isn’t new to Volleyball Canada - and you can look at the success of the Beach teams to see how it works. At the beginning of the decade, Team Canada Beach Volleyball was in a sore state of affairs, and VC hired German Leonard Krapp to turn things around. While he was frostily received by the traditional beach community - there’s little doubt the structure he set in place has helped launch the Beached Maples into one of the best programs in the world. And while Krapp is still coaching within the system - Steve Anderson was brought in to be a bit more of a diplomatic face of the program.
Black will be able to do just that once he joins the program in May. Without the language barrier and intimidating persona - there’s an opportunity here for the women’s national team and program to come together and make the push towards international relevance we’ve seen throughout Canadian volleyball over the past decade.
With Olympic Qualification looming this summer - he has no time to waste if he’s going to attend his second Olympic Games. We won’t have to wait long to see him in action either - as the woman’s National team will compete in the NORCECA Qualification Tournament May 28th-June 2nd in Chateauguay, Quebec.