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Sunday, Jun. 16, 2019
Jamie Erven now an unsung fixture of Boreal athletics
by Randy Pascal

Jamie Erven has, very quietly, become as much of a fixture of the Collège Boréal Vipères varsity sports scene as anyone other than Athletic Director Andréa Boyce.

Nearing a decade worth of commitment to the volleyball program, the native of Sundridge is now in his third year with the men's team, right on the heels of a stint that was double that length with the Boréal women.

Relatively quiet by nature and seldom one to attract attention, Erven continues to devote his efforts at a college that offers easily the smallest core of potential talent (ie. size of the student body) in the province.

"I don't ever see it as just myself," said Erven, as his team prepares to resume the OCAA schedule with home encounters this weekend against both the Redeemer Royals (Friday, Jan. 11th) and the Niagara Knights (Saturday, Jan. 12th).

"I don't view coaching or any success in coaching as me. I understand I am at the forefront of it, because I hold the title of head coach, but it's an entire team that makes it happen."

In fact, at his side, pretty much every step of this journey, has been assistant coach Jessica Filice, who ironically was first introduced to Erven during his playing days, Filice serving as one of the coaches for Shane St Louis and his men's club program, Les Diables.

Joining the duo this year is 2018 graduate and OCAA veteran Adam Martelli. Such is the lay of the land with the 2018-2019 edition of the Boréal men's volleyball team, a scenario not likely envisioned by the graduate of Almaguin High school, south of North Bay.

"I was a typical small town kid, a hockey player growing up," said Erven. "I started taking volleyball seriously only later in high school. A coach put the bug in my ear, so I went to a summer camp for volleyball and a college coach took some interest and said some kind words that kind of lit of fire."

His playing days were marked by a trip to the Ontario Summer Games, a couple of years of club ball, two seasons with the Loyalist Lancers in Belleville, before returning to Sudbury to pursue a career in journalism.

"I always kind of knew, as a player, that when I was finished, I likely wanted to parlay my career into coaching somehow," noted the 31 year-old father of one. "I don't know what it was, but it was always something that had intrigued me."

Assisting initially with the club he once played for, Erven would join the Vipères, as coach of the women's team, at the same time that St Louis was guiding the Boréal men. He may have been young, and relatively inexperienced, but Erven had a sense of exactly how to compensate.

"Any shortcomings where I felt that I was not as knowledgeable about a particular aspect of the game, I would find somebody that was more knowledgeable than me," he said. "As they were assisting and teaching it, I am also learning, at the same time."

“The strength of a good coach is bringing in people that complement you and want to work well with you, as a team,” Erven added. That said, the former undersized collegiate middle (6'1”) believes that he does capture at least elements of a few key facets of coaching.

“I suppose I am a bit of both a motivator and tactical coach,” he said. “The “X's” and “O's” are big, but the game is a lot bigger than the “X's” and “O's”. To say that I am not “X's” and “O's” wouldn't be accurate. I am a technical coach, but at the same time, a motivator, in the sense that we train and develop skill, but also focus on the development of character and all of those other things.”

In fact, this type of big picture thinking is likely even more of a necessity in Erven's world than it would be for the bulk of the OCAA coaches, as he quickly inserts some helpful perspective when it comes to focusing solely on league standings.

“If you are going to base your success solely on wins and losses, then a lot of coaches are never going to be a success, since only one team really wins it all at the end of the year,” said Erven. “By that measure, this leaves the rest of us all kind of in the dust as unsuccessful.”

"Success is building character in players and molding young adults into people that you are proud to see walk out, people who are going to have success in the outside world. It's all that stuff that people don't see."

This type of insight is not garnered overnight. This was not likely the answer that Erven would have given had this interview occurred some ten years ago. Much like his players, there is understanding and maturity that must grow over time. “I guess the biggest thing that goes with moving from athlete to coach is just the eye opening that comes with thinking that you're going to change the world over night,” he stated.

“You have these big aspirations, and all of a sudden, you get into it and realize that this is really hard. My coaches made this stuff look so easy.” Still, you persevere. A five set win over the Cambrian Golden Shield created an air of positivity heading into the holiday break. Erven understands that there is still plenty of work to be done.

“For Jess and Adam and myself, it's the same message, “ he said. “The guys know the message. It's been repeated over and over. It's having that short-term memory, putting that last mistake behind you. When you put in hours after hours after hours and you don't see results quickly, it's hard to stay focused on that path.”

“By the end of the year, when you look back on the improvement, then, sometimes, it clicks. We would like to help it click before that.”

The 2018-2019 edition of the Collège Boréal Vipères men's volleyball team includes: Josh Brown, Jaden Chouinard, Zach Ducharme, Gradi Ndumbi, Kevin Longpré, Darian Dechaine, Justin Lamontagne, Brant Howard, Michel Ayotte, Rylan Levean, Stephen Lefaive, Gabriel Paquette and Maxime Boucher.

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