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OVA Announces 2020 Recognition Award recipients

By Ontario Volleyball, 05/11/20, 12:15PM EDT


To start the digital celebration of the 2020 OVAtion Awards, the OVA has announced the deserving  recipients of the Recognition Award! Click on the individual's name for their write-up.

The Recognition Award is presented annually to an individual who has been involved in the development of volleyball at the club, regional or provincial level as an administrator (OVA committee work, referee, coach development, etc.) for five years or more. 

Ontario Volleyball annually recognizes the outstanding accomplishments and contributions of volunteers, coaches, referees, and corporate partners who have distinguished themselves through the years by providing their time, effort and support to the promotion and development of volleyball in Ontario.

The OVA is pleased to announce the following individuals for their outstanding service to volleyball in our province:

Derek Kokkinen

Derek Kokkinen set out his coaching career as a “Dad” from the sidelines watching his oldest daughter compete as a member of the Aurora Storm. When the time came for his youngest daughter to start playing, he decided to learn the technical and tactical aspects of the game as an assistant coach with Storm Volleyball. Derek continued in the role for a few years before assuming the head coach title of a 13U Girls team, teaming up his oldest daughter when she could. He continued to grow his knowledge by completing his coaching levels and learning the ropes of becoming a head coach. Now in his third year as a Head Coach, after four seasons as an assistant, Derek attributes his success to maintaining the same athletes from season to season, and the players really enjoy learning from him. Thank you for your eagerness to coach and learn the game. Congratulations Derek!

Karen Lee

Over the past six years, Karen Lee has been working in the volleyball community wearing a plethora of hats. Devoting her time to the game of volleyball includes officiating, head coach or an assistant coach with REACH Volleyball Club, and High-Performance Programs. Starting in 2014, Karen has been an assistant or head coach for teams ranging from 14U – 17U female and male athletes. In 2019, Karen was a Team Ontario Coach and was also involved in the Team Ontario Regional Summer Program. This year, Karen continues to progress amongst the coaching ranks and was selected as a coach for the Team Ontario White Summer Team. Karen has also been an active local official for three years. Congratulations Karen!

Gerry DeGirolamo

Gerry DeGirolamo was an athlete for the University of Toronto Blues Team in 1990 with Orest Stanko as the Head Coach. Moving into his career as an elementary school teacher, Gerry has been very involved with all athletics at his school. The Newmarket resident has been coaching as an assistant and a head coach for several years becoming involved with both his son and daughter’s teams simultaneously. With a desire to develop his coaching skills, Gerry became involved in Team Ontario High-Performance Programs and has been involved with programs for three years. Congratulations Gerry!

Katie Hutchinson

Katie Hutchinson is a certified Development Coach with twelve years of coaching experience and her seventh year as a coach for Leaside Volleyball Club. She is currently coaching the 14U Leaside Wildfire Girls team. Starting her coaching career in San Francisco where she worked with a high school Junior Varsity and Varsity Volleyball Program, Katie is currently a mentor in the “Changing the Conversation” program through the Ontario Coaches Association working towards supporting and developing women in coaching. More recently, Katie was a regional coach at the 14U High Performance Camp with the OVA in the summer of 2017 and worked with Leaside volunteering as a house league coach in 2013-2014. Over the past seven years, Katie has worked with 13U – 16U Girls age groups as a head coach. In addition to her coaching, Katie volunteers with Leaside as an administrative lead and digital media coordinator with the club. Congratulations Katie!

Ricky Chak

For the past six years, Ricky Chak has dedicated his time to the REACH Volleyball Club as both a head and assistant coach. Fostering the love of the game in many athletes, Ricky has coached from 14U Girls to 18U Girls teams. A Trained Advanced Development Coach, Ricky’s teams have seen numerous top performances, including two top five and four top 10 finishes. Through it all, he continues to develop the skills needed for athletes to pursue all their volleyball dreams. Congratulations Ricky!

Wally Verschoor

Wally Verschoor has been a dedicated coach for the Mountain Volleyball Club for the last eight years, currently coaching the 17U Girls team. During his tenure Wally has been the club executive for three years and this year took on the responsibility of overseeing the club and team fundraising. Wally’s involvement in coaching is not something he takes lightly and has been very dedicated to the development of the athletes. His guidance provides sound technical and volleyball skills and includes a pronounced leadership component. In addition to his club coaching responsibilities, he also directed his expertise to elementary school athletes, coaching over 20 years for the Hamilton Wentworth School Board. Congratulations Wally!

Drew Donaldson

Drew Donaldson has been heavily involved as a coach with the Mountain Volleyball Club (MVC) and currently coaches the 12U Girls team. Drew’s coaching talents are not only reflected in the individual development of the players’ skills and attitudes, but also in his excellent interactions with the athletes. Prior to coaching with MVC, Drew contributed to the volleyball community in a variety of capacities including as the head coach with the Bronte Beach Volleyball Club over a six-year period, winning two national bronze medals, three provincial gold medals and two silver, and as an assistant coach with the McMaster University men’s program. Outside of the club system, Drew has coached both junior and senior boys and girls at the elementary school where he has taught students for the past twenty-five years. Congratulations Drew!

Steve Leknois

Steve Leknois began playing volleyball at age 16 and has not looked back since, dedicating a large portion of his life to helping others develop their skills and enjoy the sport. Steve has been part of club volleyball for the last 16 years, either as a coach or part of the executive staff of one of the three clubs in Kingston and has also coached provincially as the Head Coach for Team Ontario Boys and being  involved with the High-Performance Camp since the beginning of the program. On a global scale, Steve was a member of Team Canada staff for four training seasons, wearing the Canadian flag at the FISU Games in China, Russia and a Pan Am Cup. Outside from youth volleyball, Steve coaches both men and women in the military for 36 years and received the Getronics award for his contribution to volleyball in the military. Steve started coaching outside of the military for two years as the head coach for Royal Military College in 1995-1997, and returned for the second time in 2002, coaching for 18 seasons. In 1997, Steve became the Assistant coach with Queen’s University, spending five years with the program and winning two OUA titles. In 2018, Steve was selected as the head coach of the Military International Program. Thank you for your contribution to the sport! Congratulations Steve!

Tom Ellison

Tom Ellison has helped children find their love for the game of volleyball for the past seven years coaching at a variety of levels, developing fundamental skills and instilling knowledge of the game through the Jr. Gaels House League Program. He also dedicates his time as head coach for the 16U-18U boys Kingston Rock VC teams. Not one to sit idle, Tom is also the co-founder of the Holy Cross Volleyball Summer Camp in 2017, a camp providing athletes an opportunity to train for their upcoming and high school club teams throughout the summer. Tom’s career began as an athlete for the Queen’s University Men’s Volleyball team from 2013-2018, before transitioning to the coaching ranks. He is currently the Assistant Coach of the Queen’s University Men’s Volleyball team, the current OUA champions. Thank you for all your hard work. Congratulations Tom!

Cassidy Nicholson-Clarke

Cassidy has been an avid lover of volleyball as both an athlete and coach. Starting her playing career in 2011 for the Durham Attack Volleyball Club, she remained a member until 2014. During that time, Cassidy was awarded the OVA Award of Excellence and her team finished in the top four at the Ontario Championship and top five at nationals. In 2014, Cassidy transitioned to the Durham Rebels program for one season, before rejoining Durham Attack for her final two seasons of youth volleyball. During the 17U and 18U season, Cassidy was named co-captain and awarded the Durham Attack Club award, recognizing as a graduating player. Following here youth career, Cassidy continued playing as a varsity athlete for the Durham Lords, earning numerous honors, including the team’s Rookie of the Year award, multiple OCAA East Division All-Star, and OCAA and CCAA All-Academic Student recognition. Cassidy also earned the Durham Lords Women’s Volleyball Leadership award. Cassidy started her coaching career in 2015 as an assistant coach for the 12U and 13U teams contributing with the running of practices and acting as a statistician during games. In 2017, the team won the Division One, Tier Two bronze medal at Ontario Championships. Continuing to hone her coaching skills, Cassidy was named a regional coach for the Region Four girls’ team that was slated to compete at the Ontario Summer Games. Congratulations Cassidy on this well-deserved award!

Andrew Wong

For the past seven years, Andrew Wong has taken on various roles within REACH Volleyball Club as a co-founder and coach, as well as giving his time as part of the administrative team for the club. Not one to stand idol, he been both a head coach and assistant coach for the 15U to 17U girls age groups and continues to be involved with the REACH Development Program as a coach. Thank you for all your hard work! Congratulations Andrew!

Mira Nam-Wong

Mira Nam-Wong, a humble but driven educator, shared her passion for volleyball when she co-founded the REACH Volleyball Club in 2013. Acting as the club’s Executive Director and assuming assistant and head coaching positions for various teams, Mira also ensure the behind the scenes details were also met while tending to the administrative duties with the club. A Certified Advanced Development Coach, Mira continues to inspire the next generation as coach of the REACH Development Program, fostering the love of volleyball in all athletes participating in the curriculum. Congratulations Mira!

Zac Hutcheson

Zac Hutcheson excelled in the sport through varsity volleyball at Queen’s University as an athlete where he earned numerous accomplishments including the Dale Iwanoczko Award for student-athlete community service, OUA gold and silver medals and was also selected for the Team Canada FISU Games 2019 Roster. Transitioning his personal success into coaching, Zac has been coaching club volleyball for the 16U-18U boys age groups for the past four years with Pegasus and Kingston Rock Volleyball Club. In the summer Zac can be found running summer volleyball training programs where athletes can train outside of their club and high school volleyball seasons of which he founded. Finally, Zac has been the assistant volleyball coach for Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School Senior Boys and Girls volleyball teams in various years. Congratulations Zac!

Kelly-Jean Rochefort

Kelly-Jean Rochefort’s career in club volleyball began more than seven years ago when her eldest daughter joined the West Nipissing Wild Volleyball Club 13U Indoor team. She was very new to the sport and saw how much passion her daughter had for the game and so was eager to get involved behind the scenes. Kelly-Jean is not a trainer or a coach but contributes to the sport through assisting on the club’s executive committee. The first year, Kelly-Jean started as the uniform coordinator in charge of dressing the teams and coaches, holding that position for two years. In 2016, she became the tournament coordinator, performing any task and position necessary to continue offering club volleyball to the small northern community. Now, she has found herself guiding the ship as the President of the West Nipissing Wild Volleyball Club and has had the most successful season to date this past year, highlighted by five teams winning medals at five different tournaments and the first ever 15U boys team claiming a gold medal at Ontario Championships. Thank you for developing volleyball in the West Nipissing community and providing lifelong memories to all the athletes and parents. Congratulations Kelly-Jean!

David Lightfoot

David Lightfoot has dedicated more than 30 year to the game of volleyball coaching at the elementary, high school, college and university levels. Over the past five years, Dave Lightfoot has been involved as a coach with the Mountain Volleyball Club currently coaching the 16U Girls team. Over the past three years Dave’s teams have placed second, third, and fifth at the Ontario Championships. Not limiting his energies to coaching, Dave has also extended his efforts into the club administration, as an executive member in charge of developing beach programs and acting as a liaison with other partner clubs. Congratulations David!

Lucia Kalmeyer

Lucia Kalmeyer developed a passion for volleyball through her athletic career in post-secondary education and is now giving back to the sport she loves through coaching and inspiring others to reach their volleyball goals. Lucia competed and won a silver and bronze medal in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association championships, along with being named a second team All-Star, academic All-Canadian and the recipient of the Bonnie Ginter-Brown Leadership Award. Starting in 2013, Lucia launched her coaching career at the Michigan Volleyball Academy for two years before taking roles with the Durham College Summer Camps and a Youth League coach for Invado volleyball. Currently, Lucia works with the Team Ontario Regional Program and as an assistant coach with the Durham Rebels Volleyball Club. Congratulations Lucia!

Vito DeGiorgio

Vito DeGiorgio has been a volunteer coach with the Titans Volleyball Association for 20+ years and is one of the original coaches for the club. Vito has coached both A and B level rep teams from 12U to 17U and is a very dedicated coach, willing to step up and do whatever the club needs to be successful. During the 2019-20 season, Vito was involved with four rep teams and he always works hard to develop each of his athletes. Vito’s teams have been seen success over the years, winning many Ontario Championship medals and even some National and International tournament medals as well. Aside from Rep volleyball, Vito dedicates one evening per week to run the Titans House League Developmental sites, breaking down skills and teaching athletes in way they understand and flourish. Vito also takes the time to run the Titan’s March Break and Summer Camps. Thank you for all your hard work. Congratulations Vito!

Tara Williams

Tara Williams has had a lifelong love of volleyball starting when she played during high school and has continued recreationally since. Tara’s first opportunity to coach was in 1994 while teaching on an isolated Cree reserve in Northern Ontario. She started and coached a high school girls’ team, however, since there were no teams to play as that was the only high school in the area she organized exhibition games where the team flew to Moosonee, Cochrane, and Timmins to play. Tara has coached Senior Boys and Senior Girls Teams from 2012-2017 with many accolades to go along with her coaching career. Currently, Tara is the Club President for the Simcoe Xtreme Volleyball Club and is the head coach for a 15U team. This past season, the 15U team won a bronze medal in the McGregor Cup and a silver medal in the Bugarski Cup. Congratulations Tara!

Albie O'Hanian

Albie O’Hanian makes coaching with the Mountain Volleyball Club a family affair as he currently coaches a 15U team with his wife Karen. Under his stewardship teams have finished third and tied twice for fifth at the Ontario Championships the past three years. Albie continues to further his coaching accreditation as an Advanced Developmental Coach in training and provides sound volleyball and technical instructions to his pupils. In addition to his club coaching, Albie has dedicated his expertise to elementary school athletes, winning 29 championships with the Hamilton Wentworth School Board for the past 13 years. Thank you for your contribution to grassroots volleyball in the Greater Hamilton Area. Congratulations Albie!

Irene Barras

In 2000, Irene Barras became a referee and was involved with the Niagara Board of Volleyball Officials. Throughout her duration as a referee, she officiated recreational leagues, elementary and high school matches. Irene served as a secretary for the Niagara Board of Volleyball Officials for 10 years and is currently the assignor for the region. She has been actively involved with the Ontario Volleyball Association as a referee, clinician, mentor, referee supervisor and assignor for Niagara and currently acts as a Volleyball Canada Representative at the National championships in Edmonton and Toronto. Irene has been able to watch and take part in the development and explosion of the sport, from a grassroots level, to the dynamic, professional organization that it has blossomed into today. Congratulations Irene!

Fadi Boutanos

Fadi Boutanos, cut his coaching career teeth a high school teacher who started honing his coaching skills with his school team. When his oldest daughter started playing competitive volleyball for Storm Volleyball Club, Fadi took on the challenge of the head coach role with a few mentors to help transition him to the younger age groups and learn more about top level volleyball. Fadi is now in his sixth year with club and he is involved with coaching each of his three children’s teams. His commitment to the head coach role of the 18U Girl’s team, and assistance with two others within Storm family, is great and appreciated. Congratulations Fadi!

Margaret Sawicka

Margaret Sawicka has devoted the better part of her life to volleyball – playing as a professional athlete in Poland, promoting the sport in a variety of different ways, and coaching for over 20 years. Margaret was one of the first coaches as part of the Titans Volleyball Association and has coached teams from 12U up to 17U, coaching both A and B teams within the club. Margaret regularly coaches two rep teams each year, coaching back to back four hours a night, two nights a week, and 3-4 practice hours on the weekend, exemplifying her dedication to the sport and the club. Margaret’s teams have been very successful over the years, winning many Ontario and National medals, highlighted by winning the 13U Championships last season. Margaret’s passion for volleyball has extended into developing beginners in volleyball through the Titan’s growing House League Program. Margaret has coached many athletes who have gone on to be successful beach and indoor collegiate players. Thank you for your great commitment and dedication. Congratulations Margaret!

Andrew Palazzi

Andrew Palazzi began his volleyball career competing on Toronto’s Pro Beach Tour it was natural to become involved when his kids were ready to play the sport. He started his coaching career with Storm Volleyball by co-coaching both his daughters’ teams in the first year before assuming the role as Head Coach for the 13U team the following season.  He has been successful in developing the team’s all-around skills and fundamentals, and now in his sixth year with Storm, he continues to give back an assistant coach with the Storm Monsoon, a team who earned the 2018, 15U Ontario and Nationals championship titles. Congratulations Andrew!

Lisa Watson

For the past 22 years, Lisa Watson has been involved in the volleyball community on many different fronts. In 1998, Lisa entered the coaching ranks as a high school coach establishing a decorated coaching track record that included eight OFSAA Championships appearances while earning a gold, silver and two antique bronze medals during the high school season. She started her club coaching career in 2003 with stints with the Forest City Volleyball Club and then Waterloo Tigers and has been with the Kitchener Waterloo Predators since its inception in 2008. Lisa’s teams have found the top of the podium on several occasions including a three-time Division 1 Tier 1 Provincial Championship and a two-time National Championship team. Aside from club volleyball, she has also coached as a Team Ontario Red Apprentice Coach, the OVA’s Regional Program, and a guest coach with the Youth National Team Camp. In 2018, Lisa was nominated as the Ontario Volleyball Association’s Female Developmental Coach of the Year and the Kitchener Sports Association Volunteer of the Year for all her hard work in the community and in 2020, Lisa was selected as the Team Ontario Black Assistant Coach. Congratulations Lisa!

Dan Lord

Daniel Lord is invested in growing the game he is passionate about. He has coached with the Kingston Volleyball Club, formerly the Pegasus Volleyball Club, played the sport as an athlete, and facilitates the promotion of volleyball in elementary schools and in the community. Over the past eight years, Daniel has assumed the role of the Beach Development Coach and led the 14U Boys age group within the Kingston Rock Volleyball Club. Daniel is currently the Director of Intermediate Volleyball for the Limestone Elementary School Athletic Association where he conducts clinics to elementary coaches developing stronger practices that focus on skill development for the whole athlete and introduced triple ball to the school board for Junior grades. He organizes 16 tournaments on a yearly basis for the school board and introduced beach volleyball to elementary schools. Over the past 10 years, Dan has also been actively coaching a variety of schools in the Limestone District School Board. Congratulations Daniel!

Karen Graham

Karen Graham was a former varsity soccer and basketball player for the McMaster Marauders, so her transition towards coaching has been a natural evolution. Now a coach for the Mountain Volleyball Club in Hamilton, Karen is currently co-coaching a 15U team. Combining her experience as a player and coach has allowed her to connect with her teams, finishing third and tied twice for fifth at provincials the past three years. Several athletes Karen has coached have been named to the Ontario Summer Games while representing the Region Three area. Karen continues to be an excellent role model for aspiring young female athletes, and she continues to advance her coaching qualifications as an Advanced Developmental Coach in Training. Congratulations Karen!

Al Tkachuk

Al Tkachuk grew up in Yorkton, Saskatchewan along with two older sisters who were volleyball players and captured provincial high school titles, leaving Al with big footsteps to follow. His athletic career started at the club level for the Yorkton Macs and in high school at Yorkton Regional High School. By the end of high school, Al’s teams had won four provincial volleyball titles and during club season the Midget provincial title, Juvenile title, and bronze medals at the Midget Western Canadian Championships in 1985 and Juvenile National Championships in 1986. Al would go on to represent Saskatchewan for three years and was a member of the gold medal winning team at the National Team Challenge Cup in 1986 and the Canada Winter Games in Cape Breton in 1987 before moving on to play at the University of Regina. Aside from being a highly accomplished athlete, Al registered as a local official in 1985 and worked his way up to a Regional official before relocating to Kenora in 1997. As an official, he was the minor official at the NORCECA Championships in Regina in 1991, first official at 4A Boys Volleyball Championship, official at the Ontario Summer Games in 1999, Minor Official at Canada Games in 1989, the Major Official at the Canada Games in 2001 and is currently on the Region 1 Referees Council. Congratulations Al!

2019 Recognition Award Recipients
  • Allison Haley
  • Amedeo Bernardi
  • Darlene Dupuis-Baxter
  • David Culin
  •  David Pagniello
  • David Ta
  • Dennis Dlouhy
  • Irena Zamboni
  • Ken Gadsdon
  • Kim Culin
  • Danielle Walker
  • Gabriele Jobst
  • Shaun Illingworth

For more information on the OVAtion awards, click here.