The Red Deer College brain trust didn’t have to search too far in order to find someone to take over the Queens volleyball program. He was right in their own back yard.
Chris Wandler will step in to run the show as long-time coach Talbot Walton is on a medical leave of absence.
The Notre Dame High School teacher was the head coach at Olds College for their women’s team since 2012. He also was a part of the RDC Queens program some years back under Walton. The two are friends and this ball got rolling during a hockey game at the Memorial Cup in Red Deer.
“I had an extra ticket to go to the London and Quebec game and I called Talbot up to see if he wanted to go, “said Wandler. “ We started chatting and he was just kind of telling me what his circumstances were and it just kind of went from there.”
A conversation with RDC Athletic Director Diane St. Denis was the next step and the end result is having a veteran coach who is familiar with the Red Deer College program on the bench for the 2016-17 season.
Wandler had already begun the recruiting process for the Olds College Broncos when this transpired. He has roots in Red Deer and the chance to remain in the community was something which was important to him.
He had to weigh the pros and cons to leave Olds where he built a solid volleyball program and still had some goals to accomplish.It was his team which was the biggest obstacle in choosing to leave for RDC.
“Some of the girls I recruited have been there for five years, since we started,” said Wandler. “That was a big emotional toll on me, breaking the news to them that I wasn’t coming back for them. That was 100 per cent my biggest hurdle to get over.”
He gets to step into a program which has seen only two head coaches, Walton and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame member Cor Ouwerkerk.
He knows most of the players on the Queens having watched them for years on the other side of the net but now it’s time to really get to know their personalities, strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for the upcoming season.
“It will be getting acquainted with them, trying to get to know them and how all the pieces will fit together and how that’s going to kind of dictate our style, our identity. So that will be my first little challenge for sure.”
Wandler says he and Walton are somewhat similar in how they view the game so he is convinced there won’t be a radical change in the Queens look once they take the court for the new season.
He does have his own style of coaching and a different approach to teaching and training the players.
“It will be fun putting my stamp on it and it will be one where I’m looking forward to see how this team turns out to be.”
The majority of college coaches are hired on the basis of a year to year contract so Wandler says he is viewing his tenure with RDC in the same manner as he always has when it comes to the college world of coaching.
“I’m taking over for Talbot for this year and we’ll see what his health is like in the next little while but in the meantime I’ve been told that the program and the team are mine and that’s how I’m going to take it. We’ll just see how that rolls out.”
He has already consulted with Walton regarding the current lineup of players returning and who has been recruited to this point. Now it’s putting all if this in motion.
“It’s quite exciting. There’s a lot of history and tradition here. You walk into that gym and you get a feeling like no other gym in the country and it’s quite a daunting feeling but also an exciting one.”
Let the games begin!