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Honouring a legacy

Upwards of 100 people thank four coaches instrumental in the success of BCHS’s Senior Boys Gryphons volleyball program
The community honoured four coaches who were instrumental in building the Barrhead Composite High School Senior Boys Gryphons volleyball program into a powerhouse during a night of celebration Sept. 1 at Glenreagh Community Hall. Pictured from left Pat Ternan, Howard Gelderman, Rod Callihoo and Lou Rondeau.

BARRHEAD - The community paid its respects to four volleyball coaches who helped shape Barrhead Composite High School's (BCHS) volleyball program, specifically the senior boys' Gryphons program, into the powerhouse it is known as.

On Friday, Sept. 1, as part of the school’s annual alumni tournament weekend, close to 100 friends, family, well-wishers, and former players of Pat Ternan, Howard Gelderman (a recently retired longtime Neerlandia Public Christian School teacher and coach), Lou Rondeau and Rod Callihoo gathered at Glenreagh Community Hall to thank the coaches.

Before the event, BCHS announced that Rondeau, Gelderman and Callihoo were retiring from volleyball.

The senior boy Gryphons have reached the Alberta Schools' Athletic Association (ASAA) 3A provincial championships for the last 16 years and, since 2006, has captured the championship banner eight times, the latest being in 2022.

Pat Ternan

The evening started with Ternan, who noted that his volleyball coaching career began at the then-Lorne Jenken High School at the junior high level before moving on to the senior boys and finally to the senior Gryphons with both the boys and girls.

He said he first fell in love with the sport at age 11 when Rondeau saw his first volleyball.

"I’m not sure where I would be with out volleyball," he said. "I would not have become a teacher if it weren't volleyball. The reason why I went to university in the first place was so that I could continue to play volleyball."

Ternan added that through his association with BCHS volleyball, he met many fantastic people who helped him along his journey. Some of the names he mentioned included Callihoo, who he coached in his first year; Gelderman, who he coached alongside in club volleyball and as well as against; Mike Moes, a senior boys Gryphons assistant coach; and Kyle Becker, a longtime senior girls coach.

Ternan said he was pleased to have been able to pass along his passion for volleyball to future generations of BCHS players, including his children.

"And I've had a heck of a time doing it," he said. "If I hadn't, I would have done any of it.”

Howard Gelderman

Gelderman, who spent his entire 30-year coaching career in Neerlandia with much of it focused on volleyball, said he was heavily influenced by several coaches who created the foundation for volleyball in the area.

"People such as John Osborne, Frank Rayment and Maurice Richard, who was only being in Barrhead a short time, had a profound influence," he said. "And it wasn't just the coaches and players. The entire community was so supportive."

He also recounted how BCHS principal Kerry McElroy, when learning that Gelderman's club team had made the national championships in Abbotsford, B.C., secured a school bus for them.

"It has been a tremendous journey for me," he said. "I just want to thank everyone who has helped me over the years. There have been a lot of wonderful memories."

Lou Rondeau

The Fort Assiniboine/Barrhead native took over the reins of the Gryphons as a head coach in 1982, succeeding coaches such as Hugh Lockhart, Dale Johns and Mo Richard in 1982. He held the position until 2010.

Rondeau noted that while the Barrhead volleyball program had several strong teams on both the boys and girls side, they could not get over the humpuntil 2006, when the Barrhead Gryphon Senior Boys won their first provincial championship.

"That was really our breakout year," he said. "Six players from that team would play college or university ball."

Two years later, the Gryphons would win two more championship banners.

Although he cited several coaches with advancing the senior boys Gryphons program in 2008 and 2009, including Bob Miller, Frank Raymond, Pat Ternan, Joey Miedema, Mike Moes and Tristan Hiemstra, Rondeau specifically credited Callihoo with taking it to the next level.

"The numbers don't lie," he said. "In the 12 years as head coach, Rod's teams won 80 per cent of every match."

He also noted in the 96 tournaments the squad has played with Callihoo as coach, the Gryphons have captured 44 gold and 22 silver medals.

"At zone qualifying tournaments, Rod's team had won nine gold, two silver and one bronze, and that came in his first year as head coach," Rondeau said.

He also noted that over Callihoo's tenure, 25 Gryphons would move on to play college, university and professional ball.

Rondeau then singled out three of Barrhead's provincial championships as being particularly impressive, those being 2010, 2017 and 2022.

He noted that usually, only the top two teams from zones qualify for provincials, but in 2010, due to the strength of the North Central zone as hosts, they were allowed a third wildcard slot.

"It was the best and perhaps only third-place team to go to provincials," he said.

In 2017, Rondeau said in tournaments and at zones, the Gryphons ran into a stubborn Morinville team.

"They had our number. It was what we call an "Ofer' season. We were 0 for 8 in tournaments against them, including at zones.,

As for what makes Callihoo a good coach, Rondeau said he is very knowledgeable, technically strong, and a perfectionist who can be a 'hardass' when required.

But more importantly, he gets the best out of his players and puts them in positions where they are at their best,” he said. “That year, we won one gold medal. The one at provincials.”

And if anyone had any doubts about Callihoo's coaching abilities, Rondeau said they had to look at the number of Gryphon athletes under his tenure that went on to play college, university or even professional volleyball (25 at his count) or the U19 Team Alberta Men's gold medal performance at this year's North American Indigenous Games, in which he was head coach.

Rod Callihoo

A BCHS grad, Callihoo returned to Barrhead in 1998, taking a position at his alma mater as a junior high teacher following a chance meeting with then-principal Kerry McElroy during the annual alumni tournament.

He was hanging around outside the school with a few of his fellow alums following a match when McElroy suggested that he should apply for one of the school's vacant teaching positions, which he did.

"It was the best decision I could have made. It was time that Michelle (his wife) returned home," Callihoo said.

At first, he coached girls volleyball, and although the program was strong and he enjoyed the work, his eventual goal was to become a coach of the senior boys.

But life intervened, he said, noting he opted to press the pause button on coaching as he and his wife started their family.

However, Callihoo said that he always knew he would return to coaching.

"When you see something that is going so good and a program that is so strong, you want your kids to be part of it, so you want to make sure it is properly maintained," he said.

When Callihoo returned in 2008, he became an assistant coach with the boys Senior Gryphons. A year later, at a tournament at St. Thomas Aquinas Schoolhe learned he would be taking over as head coach the next year.

"[The coaches] were sitting there at our desks after winning [the gold medal at provincials], and out of nowhere, Lou introduced me as the next head coach of the Gryphons," he said. "So, I had to learn a lot on the fly."

Callihoo said his first year as head coach was crazy, adding that although his team showed flashes of brilliance, they were very inconsistent, and he worried they might be unable to pull it together in time for zones.

However, the Gryphons qualified for the provincials, taking the final wildcard slot and going on to win the championship.

Looking back on his 12 years as head coach, Callihoo called himself the luckiest man in the world.

"I have been able to see the commitment of hundreds of athletes, guys who wanted to be better than their brothers, guys who wanted to win," he said. "That is the key. I was just lucky to be the one who was able to organize it all."

Barry Kerton,

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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