SURREY — If you were around the B.C. high school sports scene before the turn over the century, you saw perhaps the tail-end of what coaches these days lovingly refer to as “the old school way.”
The times were certainly more innocent than they are today in terms of training, practicing and playing opportunities.
Coaches like Dale Quiring, however, are well aware that one constant from those good, old days, while admittedly harder to find than it used to be, never went completely extinct. And if you’re lucky enough to find it in today’s generation, you’ve automatically got a leg up on most of the competition.
“To me, culture is everything, and if your players buy into it, it can drive them to not only be the best they can be, but allow them to exceed their expectations of what is possible,” he says.
Quiring is the head coach of the No. 1-ranked, defending B.C. AAA senior boys volleyball champions from Surrey’s Earl Marriott Secondary.
The team’s aforementioned credentials might have you believe that these Mariners are at once physically imposing, with a deep roster filled to the brim with kids who have been volleyball-only athletes from the time they first walked into a gymnasium.
Instead, they are quite the opposite.
Smaller than most, with a minuscule roster of just nine, they also play rugby, soccer and basketball.
“But it’s those intangibles, those old-school intangibles,” reinforces Quiring after the Mariners advanced all the way to the championship final of the recent UBC Invitational before falling to Edmonton’s Harry Ainlay Titans in the title match at War Memorial Gymnasium.
“I looked at them after we beat Kelowna at the UBC tournament, and they had nothing left in the tank,” continued Quiring, who has returned to coaching the team after leading them to the B.C. junior varsity title in 2017. “They were sore, and they were hurt. But they are just willing to go until they drop, and you just don’t get that kind of attitude and buy-in these days.”
They are so old-school in fact, that they don’t even have a defence-only libero.
What they do have, however, is an over-abundance of next-level stuff: Athleticism honed through years of top-level multi-sport participation, and a healthy helping of chemistry and love for each other developed through the old-school, 1970s way.
And when it comes to multi-sport athletes in the B.C. high school world, it’s hard to believe there is any better example than Earl Marriott’s McMullin brothers.
Last November, as Grade 11s, Takoda and Talon McMullin were the star hitters leading the Mariners to the B.C. senior boys Triple A volleyball title.
Then last June, they completed a most incredible school year by leading Earl Marriott to its first-ever B.C. senior boys Triple A rugby championship.
“The twins are elite national-level rugby players who also happen to love volleyball,” says Quiring. “There is just no quit in them.”
There is also their love of camaraderie, and it’s been more than enough to keep them united their friends, savouring the experience of high school life as opposed to ignoring it in a quest for single-sport specialization above all else.
The rest of the Mariners’ multi-sport roster?
Keegan Aves also plays EMS rugby with the McMullin twins, and he is a part of the Coastal FC metro soccer team along with fellow volleyball teammates Joshua Quiring and Ryan Brown.
Joshua Quiring also plays with the Earl Marriott basketball team.
Other volleyball team members include Ben Francois, Noah Halladay, Darius Opdamback, Matthew Wiebe and Andrew Campbell.
Last season, Dale Quiring stepped back from coaching the group in their first senior varsity season, instead focusing on his daughter’s Grade 8 team.
Yet overall he has been with the group for years, both as their high school head coach from Grade 8-10, and also their club coach over their Grade 8 and 9 years with Seaside Volleyball.
And that old-school feeling he describe so well as a hallmark of the current team?
Well, when Quiring last coached the group, over their 2017 junior varsity season, he experienced something that even he, as grizzled veteran coach, had never gone through.
“As we’d go through the season, I would keep track of the wins, and at one point I noticed that we hadn’t lost,” says Quiring, “and I wasn’t talking about just games, I was talking about sets, too.”
And thus on their way to winning the B.C. title that season in Kelowna, Earl Marriott’s current crop of seniors went not only 38-0 in match play but won all 76 sets in the process.
“These kids don’t talk about winning, though,” says Quiring. “They never taunt or brag. They’re humble.
“When we go to practice, it’s what Talon always says to the guys ‘Let’s have fun boys, let’s go out and play hard.’”
Earl Marriott will take part in the 2019 Best of the West Invitational set to run Oct. 17-19 at Kelowna Secondary, part of an eight-team A-B gold pool which also includes the host Owls, Surrey’s Pacific Academy Breakers, the defending B.C. Double-A champion Abbotsford Christian Knights, Lake Country’s George Elliot Coyotes, the Langley Christian Thunder, Prince George’s College Heights Cougars and Calgary Christian.
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