© Renell LeGrow photo
Volunteer volleyball Coach Bruce Andrews rallies his team of Grade 8 girls from Exploits Valley Intermediate, one of the many teams Andrews has coached over his some 33 years of volunteering with sports in the province.
Over the past 33 years, the name Bruce Andrews has become synonymous with volleyball in Newfoundland.
With a bevy of awards and honours from the Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association and School Sport Newfoundland, as well as 28 provincial championships between playing and coaching, he's one of the most decorated figures in all of Newfoundland sports.
But above and beyond that, it's the volunteer work that sets Andrews apart.
A friend of his once asked him how many hours he'd volunteered towards volleyball, and Andrews took the time to sit down and do the math.
"When I did the estimate, I couldn't believe it," Andrews said. "It was the equivalent to seven teaching years."
Since 1979, Andrews dedicated his evenings and weekends to coaching kids to play the game he loves.
After his teaching career took him to New World Island in 1979, Andrews began coaching as a way to remain active in the game. Having played in high school and university, he had never considered coaching, but soon found himself back in the game.
"When I came out of university, I had no intention of coaching volleyball whatsoever," he said. "But once I started, I got the bug and I kept going."
Andrews returned to his hometown in 1993, and brought his passion for coaching back with him. He's been a figurehead for volleyball in Grand Falls-Windsor ever since, coaching teams and running clinics at all levels.
Andrews coached many outstanding teams over the years, including a 25-year span in which he coached a team to the semi-finals 24 times. But Andrews says success isn't the main thing he strives for.
"It's always rewarding to do well. But the most rewarding thing for me as a volunteer is to see that once they leave high school, they continue to play."
It's this sort of personal impact that hits a soft spot in the veteran coach.
This past year, while helping to run mini-volleyball at Millcrest Academy and Sprucewood Academy, a young student had trouble coming up with the money to pay for second-half registration. Andrews and his associate, Edith Hanlon, later learned that she had paid for the first half of the year with her birthday money. Struck by her dedication, Andrews and Hanlon decided to let the child play after Christmas without paying.
During the first session in the New Year, the student approached them and said it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her.
"There's wins and there's tough losses, you remember all those things. But to me, that was better than any win at any tournament."
Andrews said his first 14 years of coaching were dedicated to finishing as high as possible, but experiences like this have changed his perspective.
He began to look at ways he could better improve the game of volleyball and impact the players he coached. This led to him starting the mini-volleyball program, which has since produced many varsity athletes, coaches, officials, and volunteers.
"It's all about putting back into the program," he said.
Andrews urges young people to get involved in volunteering, but issues a couple of warnings.
"Make sure you really want to do it. Nothing is worse than doing something you don't want to do. And make sure you're willing to make the commitment."
He said if anyone is interested in giving some spare time to help the volleyball program in the area, they should feel free to contact him.
After retiring from teaching and coaching in 2008, he returned to the mini-volleyball program the following year, where he continues to devote several hours of his week to the program.
In the past 33 years, Andrews has kept busy and built an impressive record behind him. His list of accomplishments includes two NLVA Coach of the Year Awards, two NLVA Community Development Awards, the NLVA Reg Soper Award for provincial contribution to the game, and the 2008 SSNL Coaching Service Award.
Yet even with all of that, and the seven years' worth of volunteer hours he's put in, he still finds time for himself.
"In between all that, I tie about 5000 salmon ties a year," he laughs. "That's something you learn in life. Time management."