After playing volleyball at elite levels for more than a decade, Jason Cannon and Thomas Tremblay remain involved with the game, but from a different part of the sidelines nowadays.
Cannon and Tremblay returned to the St. Thomas University men’s volleyball team as assistant coaches for the current season. Their move behind the bench comes on the heels of a combined eight seasons as players for the Tommies – three for Cannon and five for Tremblay.
“The dream is to one day be the head coach of a college or university team,” said Tremblay.
A native of Saint John, Cannon suited up for the Tommies from 2012-13 to 2014-15, while Tremblay – who hails from Fredericton – played for STU from 2011-12 to 2015-16.
When Cannon, who is now 24, reached the age of 12, he wanted to try his hand at volleyball because his female crush was participating in their school’s volleyball intramurals.
Cannon soon befriended a young man who gave him tips and tricks on the game. Then he fell in love with volleyball.
At the age of 15, Cannon tried out for the New Brunswick Under-16 provincial team and made it. He continued to play for Team NB until he turned 20.
Transitioning into university, Cannon chose the University of New Brunswick Saint John campus in his hometown for his first year. He then transferred to UNB in Fredericton to play volleyball there with the Varsity Reds.
After playing with the V-Reds, Cannon realized he was undersized, and with the talent of the UNB team, he couldn’t see himself being able to progress as much as he had hoped.
Cannon chose to make another change and looked to the tiny liberal arts campus up the hill. He decided STU was where he could see his volleyball career advancing.
Cannon was a member of the 2014 and 2015 Tommies teams that won consecutive Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association titles. In his second of year university, STU fell short at the ACAA championships.
After three successful seasons with the Tommies, Cannon soon got offers to play in the Ontario University Athletics conference. He opted to play his final year (2015-16) with the Nipissing University Lakers in North Bay, Ont.
While playing there, he got to play with and against some of the best players in Canada.
Today, Cannon works full-time as a family service worker for We Care Home Health Services, while Tremblay is a communications officer for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Coaching is how the duo spends many of its evenings and weekends.
Like Cannon, Tremblay was introduced to volleyball at the age of 12 in his middle school gym class. He was tall and learned that his height led to having a talent for volleyball.
Throughout middle school and high school, Tremblay had been coached by current STU head coach Francis Dugauy as well as Henri Mallet.
Tremblay said Duguay is now in his last season with the Tommies, and interviews with candidates who may end up replacing him are ongoing.
Tremblay attended Ecole Sainte-Anne, a French high school in Fredericton that has been noted for a high pedigree of volleyball culture. This was a school where, if you were into any sport, the one many people expected you to play was volleyball.
Sainte-Anne also has had several students move on and play volleyball at the university level.
After finishing Grade 12, Tremblay enrolled at STU for the journalism program and to further his volleyball career.
He came to St. Thomas because it was close to home, and he was Dugauy’s first recruit in 2011.
Cannon and Trembley both said the years they spent on the men’s volleyball team were enjoyable, and they couldn’t be more eager to come back to the program and pass on their skills and knowledge to the younger players.
Going from playing on a university volleyball team to coaching one is a big adjustment. Tremblay said coaching has taught him to focus on the fact that everyone makes mistakes and players can only get better when making them, and to be patient.
A point about being behind the bench Cannon shared was that, when coaching, it teaches you to be tougher on the more advanced players, as everyone can improve on a certain skillset.
When asked if being a player or coach is more rewarding in situations like big wins, both Cannon and Tremblay agreed that the feelings are close to even.
“Coaches make up a plan, and the players execute it. It’s an all-around team effort,” said Tremblay.
Both Tremblay and Cannon said they would love to continue coaching and working with the STU men’s volleyball program.
The Tommies’ current record is 6-4, and with five games left in the regular season, Cannon, Tremblay and the players hope to finish off strong and challenge for a fourth straight ACAA banner.