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OVA Announces 2022 Achievement Award Recipients

By Ontario Volleyball Association, 07/27/22, 5:15PM EDT


The Achievement 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 ten years or more.  

We are pleased to announce the following  for their outstanding service to volleyball in our province: 

Andrew Foster

Andrew ‘Drew’ Foster has been a mainstay in the Southwestern Ontario volleyball scene for over a decade. Under his guidance, the South County Bandits Volleyball Club have been on a run of top 20 rankings that has lasted his entire tenure with the program.

Primarily coaching 15U to 18U teams, Drew has led his team to success at the provincial level with a Gold Medal in 2018 for the 16U girls’ team. In 2019 the 16U team opened the season 25th and rose to 13th by the end of season and this season the 17U team was ranked 7th heading into the Ontario Championships. Drew has also been very involved in the administrative side of the club holding a position as the Club Technical Director from 2016 to 2021. His leadership and guidance on the court has been very influential to his athletes as 12 of his former players have gone on to play volleyball at the post secondary level.

As a player, Drew was a multi-year varsity athlete as a Libero for the University of Windsor. A human kinetics student, Drew walked-on and became a leading defender, finishing his first year as the OUA leader in digs. As his coaching career progressed, he returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach for the past 8 years with the Lancers. He currently holds the role of Lead Assistant Coach for the women’s team. In his time there Drew pitched an idea for the Windsor Girls’ Volleyball Showcase, a high-school All-Stars event bringing over 50 of the regions best athletes together to help build the community and raise money for charity.  

It is work like this and his dedication to volleyball at the Club and Varsity levels that has earned Drew a 2022 Achievement Award. Congratulations Drew!

Irene Prime

Irene Prime has been a pillar in Region 3 Volleyball for over 45 years. She has worked to distinguish herself as a coach, referee, club administrator and volunteer.

As an official, Irene has been a Level 2 since 1976. As she moved forward in her career, she became the Officials Assignor for Halton Referees’ Association in 2010 and an OVA, OUA and OCAA assignor for Region 3 in 2013. Two roles that she still holds today. Irena also sits on the Niagara Board of Officials.

Irene’s coaching career is just as impressive. She has coached at both the high school level for multiple schools in Region 3, and at the varsity level, where she has been as an assistant for Western University. At the club level she was worked with both the Burlington Blaze and Waterdown Raiders, first as a coach and later as the Club Director for 23 years.

Irene found time to be on numerous Committees, including the OFSAA Sports Advisory Committee for Volleyball and the OFSAA Athletic Transfer Committee. Her commitment to her sport has led to awards like the 2015 OVA Recognition Award and the 2018-19 Leadership in School Sport Award for her work at Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School.

Irene is a great example of someone who has used their skills and knowledge of the sport to help build the sport of volleyball in her area and her dedication and values embody those of the OVA. She has impacted many athletes, coaches, officials, and parents alike. Congratulations Irene!

Jeffrey Miller

Jeffrey Miller has been coaching with South County Volleyball Club for 20 years. During his tenure, SCVC has been very successful under his watchful eye. At the provincial level, his 18U teams have two top-4 finishes and 15 top-10 overall finishes at the 16U to 18U levels.  His 16U girls team won the Eastern Canadian National Championship in 2014. Along with coaching, he has moved into a senior role with the club as Vice President and he plays a key in role in the club with Athlete Development.

Jeffrey also coaches at the high-school level with General Amherst High School Girls Volleyball and helped lead them to 11 OFSAA appearances, leading to 7 medals including 3 OFSAA Golds.

As a former varsity athlete at the University of Indianapolis for golf, Miller knows what it takes to succeed at the post secondary level. His knowledge of the game and ability to bring out the best in his players has led to over 60 of his former athletes moving on to the next level. Multiple varsity careers have blossomed under his tutelage and one of his athletes, Layne Van Buskirk, is currently a member of Team Canada Women’s’ National Team Roster. 

Miller does not just stick to coaching. He is also a certified Level 2 Provincial referee and finds time administratively to be a Windsor and Essex County Secondary School Association Convenor, a role he has held for the past 12 years.  He is also a member of the WECSSAA Executive Council which oversees High School sports in the Windsor/Essex area.  

For everything Jeffrey has done to better the sport of volleyball in his region, OVA is proud to award him one of the 2022 Achievement Awards. Congratulations Jeffrey!

John Gillis

For almost three decades, John Gillis has been watching lines or commanding the stand in various capacities across the province and country. His influence moves beyond the court as his fingerprints are all over development and testing programs that are used to groom future referees.  

Beginning as a Level 1 local indoor referee in 1996, he would oversee high school and OVA events in his area. In the late 90’s, Gillis hit the sand after gaining his badges at Local and Provincial Beach Clinics taught by OVA Hall of Fame member Sylvia Jaksetic. John also achieved Provincial Indoor badge status in 2001.

In 2004 Gillis would begin to help develop the next generation of referees as he became the OVA Beach Officials Chair where he was instrumental in managing the recruitment and retention of beach referees in Ontario. In 2009, Gillis would then play a major role in developing the OVA Beach mentorship program, pairing novice referees with more experienced ones to help further develop junior beach referees.  Since 2010, he has worked closely with the National Officials Committee to prepare the Volleyball Canada Beach Volleyball Exams for Local and Provincial Upgrade programs.

His dedication to constantly improve his own knowledge, John gained his National Beach Referee Upgrade program and NORECA Minor Official status in 2016 and completed his Volleyball Canada Beach Referee Supervisor course in 2017.

Since 2000, Gillis has been a referee or supervisor at all but one Volleyball Canada National Beach Championships as well as the Canada Games Beach Tournament in 2001. In 2015, when the Pan Am Games were in Toronto, he was named one of only three Referee Supervisors for the Games. As a mentor he has helped many referees with his experience and knowledge of the game to better themselves and earn upgrades. Two of his mentees have gone on to become International Referees.

Gillis believes that it was mentors like Jaksetic, Andrew Robb, Martin Kerstens and Brian McEnhill that helped him get to where he is in his career. As well as the love of his wife and children who had to share him with the volleyball community for so many years. He would advise the next generation of referees to keep it fun and hold the perspective that volleyball is first and foremost a game that is to be fun at all levels. Gillis also noted how “incredibly lucky I feel to have been invited into the Beach Volleyball community just when it was taking off exponentially. I am so proud to have been trusted with the Beach Chair position for so many years and to perhaps have had some small part in the growth of so many Beach Referees in Ontario and Canada.”

Congratulations John on your Award!

Larissa Byckalo

Before Larissa Byckalo started developing the next generation of volleyball players, she was an extremely accomplished varsity athlete at McMaster University as Captain of the Marauders where she was team MVP in 2010 and 2011. Not only did Larissa excel on the court, but also in the classroom and the community. She graduated with a Hons. Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology, which led to a place on the Dean’s List, saw her achieve CIS Academic All-Canadian status and she was honoured with the Dr. Edna Guest award as an athlete with outstanding achievements in community service, academics, and athletics.

Since her graduation from teacher’s college, Larissa has contributed back to the volleyball community and is heavily involved as a coach with the Mountain Volleyball Club. She is currently coaching the U16 girls’ team and has nurtured them for the past two years. Her coaching not only provides sound technical and volleyball skills but also includes a pronounced leadership component with activities she has learned from OELC (Ontario Educational Leadership Center) where she is a highly respected Teacher Facilitator.

With support from the Mountain Volleyball Club administration, she developed and implemented an outstanding developmental program for youth: the “Mountain Beach Club” introducing novice volleyball players to beach volleyball techniques, training, and competition. Larissa is also responsible for introducing a site that allowed MVC coaches to share resources and was also part of the clubs “covid committee and responsible for keeping the club executive up to date on changing covid protocols, researching protocols from site to site and an overall attitude of keeping our athletes and coaches safe during the pandemic.  Last year Larissa initiated a mentorship program within the athletes of the club. This mentorship program saw older athletes paired with younger to help them progress through the trials and tribulations of being a young athlete in a competitive atmosphere during a pandemic. This was especially important during the “slowdown” caused by covid as it kept their athletes engaged at an entirely different level.

Larissa’s coaching commitments have gone beyond the club level and include being actively involved with Team Ontario Athlete Development Programs. Over the years, she has acted as assistant coach with the Region 3 girls, and in 2015 was a Team O Assistant coach, helping to bring home the bronze medal from the National Team Challenge Cup. Over the summer of 2016, Larissa was an assistant coach for Team O Black and helped lead the team to bring home the bronze medal from the USAV High Performance Championship event.  Over 2016 and 2017, Larissa was an assistant coach for the Canada Games Girls program, and she helped the team secure a 4th place finish at the Canada Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  In 2020, she returned to the program and was the Team Ontario Red Head Coach and in 2021 was a Lead Coach for Team Ontario Black.  For all her efforts at the Club level and through Team Ontario programming, Larissa was awarded the OVA’s Female Development Coach of the Year award in 2017.

Larissa’s passion for the game, leadership, administrative work, and overall effort to better not just herself, but athletes under her tutelage is why she is being named as a 2022 OVA Achievement Award winner. Congratulations Larissa on your well deserved award!

Michael (Mike) Boat-Smith

For the past ten years Michael has contributed to the volleyball community and is heavily involved as a coach with the Mountain Volleyball Club.  He is currently coaching the 15U girls’ team after coaching a number of athletes in the capacity of co-coach or assistant coach.  Mike began coaching volleyball for MVC in 2012 and continued to coach until 2016. After a brief hiatus with Halton 15U in the 2018-2019 season, he is currently back with MVC. 

Michaels coaching not only provides sound technical and volleyball skills but also includes a pronounced leadership component. During his tenure at MVC, Mike has also helped the club secure gym time for their club and equipment for their MVP developmental program.  

Mike’s involvement in club coaching is not something that he takes lightly, and he has been very dedicated to the development of all athletes left in his tutelage.  In addition to his club coaching, Mike has also directed his expertise to secondary school athletes, coaching for over twenty years for the Hamilton Wentworth School Board. In terms of school volleyball, Mike has coached junior girls since 2005 at Highland SS until it became Dundas Valley SS.  

Aside from volleyball, Mike’s love for athletics is obvious.  Mike has been coaching track and cross country at Highland/DVSS since 1998, leading them to 16 straight city track team titles, 9XC team titles, 3 SOSSA titles for XC/track and has sent over 175 athletes to OFSAA between the two. Coaching many other sports including skiing, soccer, hockey, Mike always offers his help to make sure sports can run at school if they need a coach. Mike’s outstanding contribution to the sport community was recognized by the City of Hamilton and he was recipient of the Sports Volunteer Award from Sport Hamilton and by OFSSA with OFSAA Leadership in Sport Award. 

His dedication and involvement in his volleyball community over the past 10 years is why Michael Boat-Smith is being awarded a 2022 OVA Achievement Award. Congratulations on the award!

Tom Kerkhoff

Tom Kerkhoff began his life as a volleyball athlete at John Dearnes Elementary School in grade 8 and continued playing at Oakridge Secondary School for five years under the tutelage of OVA Hall of Famer Vaughan Peckham.

A Bachelor of Kinesiology student, Tom would spend three years playing varsity volleyball at the University of Western Ontario. The lessons he learned on and off the court under the leadership of Jim Sage would set Tom up for a great coaching career.  

In 1989. Tom joined Forest City Volleyball Club and he has continuously coached various teams ever since. Over the next three decades Tom would be instrumental in developing players at multiple age groups and various levels not only for the club, but also in the community.

Although Tom is not a teacher, he would bring his volleyball knowledge back to Oakridge Secondary School as a coach from 1989 to 1994 and helped lead the team to OFSSA Gold and Silver medals during his tenure.  Later in life, Tom once again coached in the school system, spending 7 years between 2013 to 2019 coaching both boys and girls’ teams at John Dearness Elementary School.  On 3 different occasions, Tom also worked as a coach at Camp Madawaska in Palmer Rapids and he, with the help of Dave Preston, would also start London’s first Beach Volleyball League from 1990-1992 which helped develop the sport in the area.

In 2017, Kerkhoff would add an administrative role to his belt, taking over as Club President of Forest City, a position to which he holds today.

Over the past 33 years, Tom's contribution to the sport of volleyball in the London area has been remarkable. He is truly deserving of the Achieve Award.  Congratulations on your award Tom!