The last time volleyball players Teresa Monkman and Kelli Maskiewich returned to Smithers from the BC Games they had gold medals hanging around their necks and smiles as wide as the Bulkley Valley.
That was 1979 and it was the first ever BC Games and volleyball was played at the Winter Games, but today, Monkman and Maskiewich go to the Summer Games as coaches for the North West zone girls volleyball team.
Returning to the Games as coaches was an easy decision, a matter of giving back to the community.
“It was simply that Kelli and I were keen to create an opportunity for Zone 7 girls to participate, so we signed up for the job,” Monkman said.
Monkman and Maskiewich have played volleyball together since 1979, including stints with the Smithers club team and the University of British Columbia.
More recently, the pair returned from the US Open Championships in Salt Lake City with a bronze medal in the 45 and over category.
When asked, both Monkman and Maskiewich named Fred Jackson as the one coach that nurtured their love of volleyball and shaped their careers.
“He was the critical element in Smithers being so successful in volleyball in those earlier years,” Maskiewich said.
“It was his commitment to the sport that created a large number of women skillful enough to play volleyball beyond our high school years.
“He taught me that if you’re willing to invest the time and willing to embrace the instruction, your potential is probably much greater than you imagined.
“He was an absolute difference maker in my life, I will be forever grateful.”
As they head off to Surrey, Monkman and Maskiewich carry a gearbag full of memories from their first visit to the BC Games, memories of friendship and of course the competition.
“I do remember that was the first time I had ever flown on a plane,” Maskiewich said.
“I think my favorite memory was winning the gold medal, beating the Vancouver Island team in the final at my first provincial competition.
“It was the small town of Smithers against the much larger centers and we won!”
As coaches of the Zone 7 team, Monkman and Maskiewich want to inspire their players just as Jackson did, to provide them with the framework and the instruction to take their game to another level.
More importantly, Monkman said a top priority was to help their players develop friendships, friendships such as theirs, born of the love of volleyball, of sport, that will last a lifetime.
“I think we’ve already accomplished the goal the girls becoming good friends with people they otherwise would only compete against,” Monkman said.
The Summer Games run from July 19 − 22. Visit www.bcgames.org to keep up with all of the athletes from Smithers.