Brad McClure’s coaching roots started when he was a student therapist for the University of Waterloo’s Women’s Volleyball program for three years. He began helping out of one of the Assistant Coach’s daughter’s 15U team in Hespeler and then pursued a Master of Coaching program at Waterloo which allowed him the opportunity to do both school and coaching. McClure then spent a year at Western University as the Assistant Coach for the Women’s program, then Fanshawe College for two with the Men’s team. In addition to coaching at the collegiate level, McClure was also involved in club with the London Volleyball Club during this time. After leaving Fanshawe, McClure became the Head Coach at Conestoga College. He went out and explored beach volleyball around this time, curious about a side of the sport he had never considered but thought he could learn from as he noticed many indoor players returning as better athletes having spent their summers playing beach.
He was invited out to Team Ontario Beach which precipitated into numerous opportunities. Beginning by helping out during the summers, McClure climbed the ranks as an Assistant Coach for the girls program, to coaching at the Canada Games then switching to the boys side and moving from the junior to senior ranks for the Fulltime Training Groups. McClure has been with Team Ontario Beach for over five years and is a certified Performance Beach Coach.
Throughout these progressions he continued to coach indoor club throughout Southwestern Ontario. McClure currently serves as the Technical Director for MAC Volleyball Club where he also coaches the 18U Titanium. This past summer he was the Lead Coach for the boys program for Team Ontario Online.
OVA: With all of these experiences, from coaching indoor club to collegiate and beach, does your coaching style shift focus when your dealing with varied levels of athletes?
I don’t think it changes much - an athlete is an athlete. I have found from a beach perspective there is so much more of a reliance on the partnership on the court that it’s kind of altered the way I approach things with athletes. When I first started with indoor, you put your six best athletes out there or the lineup you think is going to work but if it doesn’t work you swap it out and as a team you’re training your deficiencies. On the beach side, you might have a different training partner for the day but when you compete it’s you and your best and your partner and their best and you find just how strong that connection is – it’s a more personable game and I try to bring that personalization to how I do things on the indoor side.
When I was at college it was a group training philosophy, not really focusing what everyone’s individual mechanics were. I’m having more individualized conversations with my athletes now than I was five years ago at the college level and I’ve found it makes a world of difference for athletes who now are constantly evaluating themselves. I’m able to have deeper conversations with these athletes that reach beyond technical and tactical and now focus more from a personal growth stand point.
OVA: Did you play volleyball growing up?
I played for Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton for four years, one year of club. I found the load for myself to be a little much as I was also playing rep hockey and baseball in the summer. From my later years (17-18) I more so did it from a social aspect. I was a solid athlete but not big in the volleyball world; I’m 6-2 not and 15 years ago I would’ve been large but now I’m working with athletes that dwarf me in size. Every guy on my indoor team is taller than me.
OVA: Was volleyball your preferred sport of the three or did you naturally grow more attached to it through your athletic training/sports therapy pathway?
Hockey is more of my preferred sport (if I’m going to choose a sport to play) just based on the compete level, the pace, the physical contact – I like getting into the corners. I was originally slated to be a student therapist for the women’s hockey team, but their spots were filled up so the opportunity was volleyball. The more you observe the sport, the more you think about how you would train it or do it. I’ve always been one of the guys who uses their brains over their physical-ness to accomplish tasks, so the challenge of volleyball is that it’s a rebound sport; you need to react to what someone has done to the ball at all times. It requires a high level of skill and coordination and breaking down these components, thinking about the options…it’s an intellectual exercise that I’ve always enjoyed and I found the community very inviting. It’s something with different challenges every single day.
OVA: Did you have mentors?
Dave Edwards; he was the Head coach of the Women’s team at Western University. The biggest thing I’ve learned from him there was how to manage a team and build a program. He’s a guy with a similar background to me: a teacher and a hockey guy. He had sons grow up and go through the Forest City system and knew a little bit about volleyball but knew a lot more about people. I learned how to carry myself and generally interact with athletes in a positive manner through him.
On the beach side of things, I’ve had the honour of working with Angie Shen and Eddie Coleman on a year-to-year basis. Angie’s been the one to push me to push myself to and grow and inquire and be as detailed as possible. Same with Eddie, I admire how he interacts with athletes and whether it’s athletes that he’s worked with for 10 plus years or working with the first time, he’s such an engaging individual and you learn how to carry yourself when your surrounded by positive people all the time.
OVA: What was some of their advice that stuck with you? Do you pass that on to your assistant coaches or athletes?
I don’t know if it’s specific advice – the conversations I have with them in the summer are daily and through the year, weekly - but it’s on the lines of looking to see what you can positively take from any situation that I think is something that I try to bestow whether it’s my teachings, daily practice and the analyzing of a positive or negative results. I try not to get too high or too low when it comes to outcomes. I will always learn more if individuals around me are learning more, whether that’s a different way to view a skill or view a theme/concept that keeps coming up. So any chance an athlete wants in terms of changing a drill, they see more than I do – they are more experienced to playing the sport than I am. If there’s something the athletes or assistant coaches want to explore, I’m happy to take a back seat and support where I can.
OVA: What is your philosophy? Do you have a specific goal with coaching?
Not one that I really visit on paper too often – I think that’s something that I’m pretty guilty of. I’m looking to create the highest quality environment and I really value the relationships that I have with athletes and coaches.
For me coaching isn’t that simple. If I say I want to become a professional coach, then I’ve done that from the standpoint of the job at Conestoga and I was paid to do so and after that, I don’t think coaching for me is that black and white. My goal is to constantly look for what my growth area is and lean into that and see where that direction takes me, whether that’s in the context of indoor club, Provincial team or National team. Similar in life, I just kind of find the things I’m not great at and improve those.
OVA: Was there any insight/advice that was given to you that you tried but simply didn’t work?
One of the things that was a fault of mine that I picked up, whether through conversations or people that I’ve grown up with, is that as coaches we like to be prepared and control each and every situation. The challenge there, with athletes that are now constantly evolving and exploring, you can’t plan for every situation. If you try to go through every situation, the one you don’t prepare for is the one that’s going to expose the gap in game plan or a gap in the training cycle. What I’ve learned from that is that I can’t control everything so I look after what I can and always seek input, advice and help from everyone involved to get an all-encompassing viewpoint so I can better prepare for change and adapt.
McCLure (second from left) with fellow Team Ontario Beach coaches.
OVA: What’s the most important thing an athlete can learn from a coach?
That the coach doesn’t know everything and it’s okay to question or have very good conversations around possible next steps and understand that coaches are learning just as much as athletes are. It’s more like someone needs to lead the group but what route we take and how are going to get there is still undetermined so I’m learning as much from them as they are from me.
OVA: What’s the most important thing a coach from learn from a coach?
I think that regardless of whatever coaching situation you find yourself in, whether you agree with or disagree with how someone has done something or how they got to that point, there’s always something that a coach can learn from another coach. Whether it’s positive or negative, they can decide for themselves what works for them and what doesn’t. Just be willing to be open to change and open to advice and being prepared to adapt because athletes from today are not the same as the athletes of yesterday – they are very different. What they’ve grown up with and been exposed to at a young age is totally different from what I was at their age, so be aware of their world and be willing to change.
OVA: What are some memorable moments from your coaching career thus far? Do you have a moment you are most proud of?
Experiencing the 2017 Canada Games. The enormity of the Games and being around a large multi-sport event is one of the coolest things I’ve done. Any time I get to travel internationally to either be a part of or watch beach volleyball comes a close second because the sport in itself is done at a different standard on the world stage. Exposing myself to that has made some things clearer when it comes to what I’m coaching, what I’m teaching and how I’m teaching it.
In 2014…I think, I had the opportunity to go with the second Canadian team out of Ontario for the U-21 Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland and the past two years prior to this summer I had an opportunity to go to California to go to the USAVB High Performance Championship and to experience the Huntington Beach FIVB four star. Every time I go back (to California) I enjoy it that much more.
OVA: Why do you keep coaching? Is it because of the constant learning, the growth of your athletes?
It’s a little bit of column A and column B. The growth is nice and constant exposure to gaps and unless your trying to put yourself in a situation to continuously learn, you’re not going to. I think a big piece of it is the relationships I have with coaches and the athletes. There are really good things that come with coaching and really challenging things that come with coaching but at the core of everything is what is your relationship like and how can you grow that and how can you find a way to come closer to all these pieces that will benefit the growth of the athlete, coaches and ultimately the program.
OVA: Do you have any advice for aspiring coaches?
Put yourself out there and be willing to gain some experience. I’m very heavy into academics but I think that there’s a big difference between theory and application. You can only do so much learning from a textbook or from what others do it without actually getting out there and doing it yourself. You’ll know pretty soon what your gaps are or what your strengths are and you learn from there.
National Coaches Week is being celebrated from September 19-27, 2020! Join us as we highlight coaches from Ontario who's commitments and devotion to the game has made great impacts on the programs and players they have been involved with and taught.
If you want to participate in National Coaches Week, the easiest way to get involved is by simply thanking your coach! You give a shoutout, share your support and share your stories on social media through the hashtags #ThanksCoach and #CoachesWeek.
For coaches, there are free and discounted NCCP courses that can be attended as well. Visit https://www.coachesontario.ca/events/coachesweek/ to find out how else you can get involved this National Coaches Week.