There’s no question that Cisco Farrero is grateful for the chance to coach the men’s volleyball team at the College of the Rockies.
After spending the past two seasons with the Memorial University Seahawks in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Farrero’s tenure as head coach of the CIS club ended for reasons outside of his control.
Budget cuts terminated the men’s volleyball program and left Farrero without a coaching gig. Fortunately, there was a position just opening up in Cranbrook.
— CranbrookTownsman (@CranTownsman) August 3, 2017
“I was aware that the COTR position was open and I wanted to remain as a head coach so I called [them],” Farrero said. “I’ve previously coached in the CCAA (Canadian Colleges Athletic Association), so I was familiar with the level of play … I knew [that Cranbrook] was beautiful and a little bit closer to home for me, [so] I saw it as a [great] opportunity.”
Farrero, who is originally from Saskatchewan, cut his teeth in post-secondary volleyball with Eastern Alberta’s Lakeland College Rustlers as an assistant coach.
The Rustlers played in the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference (ACAC) which is a member of the CCAA. The COTR Avalanche play in the Pacwest, which is also part of the CCAA.
“[I know that COTR] is a program that has kind of been knocking on the door of becoming really successful and I’d like to help [them] take the next step,” Farrero said of taking the job. “I’m really excited to see what we can build in Cranbrook.”
The Avalanche program took a big step in 2015-16, when the women’s team won the school’s first ever provincial title and earned a trip to the CCAA national championships. The men, however, have been lacking in stability recently.
Farrero will be the men’s third coach in three years and the program is hoping he can be the first steady hand since Steve Kamps ended his 15-year tenure in 2015.
During Kamps’ era, the team won three bronze provincial medals and made the provincial championship tournament 11 times.
In 2015-16, under current women’s coach John Swanson (who was pulling double duties with both teams that season), the Avs finished the regular season in fifth place. Although they made the bronze medal game at provincials, they subsequently lost. In 2016-17, Herb Tepper led the men to a fourth place regular season finish before losing in the provincial quarter-finals.
For Farrero, the first step to making his own mark is getting to know the team he is inheriting.
Having officially taken the position on August 9, there is no chance to recruit new players but with only four departures after last season, he has a 12-13 man squad ready to go.
“I’m not familiar with too many of the guys that are returning, but I think that the most important thing [to do] is get on the same page,” Farrero said. “My coaching style is [flexible]. I like to adjust to whatever we have for a roster.”
The new coach plans on arriving in Cranbrook during the Labour Day long weekend and get started as soon as possible. Beginning with some game play, he hopes to set positions and identify future recruiting needs.
Within a week, Farrero feels that he should have a good grasp of the team’s roster.
“[In] the first week, [I will] figure out who can do what, who is a hard worker, who really has the drive,” he said. “You can see that right off the bat… I’m all about competition [though], so I don’t want to promise anyone anything.”
While there were only four departures from the team last season — Spencer Janzen, Patrick Toze, Alex Cassels, Duncan Sutherland — they were all part of the team’s starting six players and will be hard to replace.
Janzen, won the team’s MVP award in 2016-17 and led the Avs in blocks as their starting middle and team captain. Outside hitter Toze, meanwhile, was COTR’s clear offensive leader and finished his sophomore year in second-place amongst the team’s all-time kill leaders.
The team does, however, have players waiting in the wings. Outside hitter David Dobson was the Avs’ Rookie of the Year last season and was a part of the Pacwest’s all-rookie team. Brazilian power-hitter Julio Lins also had a breakout season which resulted in a conference player of the week honour, and Matt Cespedes was honoured as the team’s most improved player as a rookie.
Returning starting libero Blake Thomson should also continue to make an impact on the defensive end of the floor.
Farrero is adamant that starting positions will be won in practice, but is willing to do whatever it takes to win, in terms of his lineup rotation.
“I think it depends on what we need on any given night, any given match,” he said. “ I’m sure there’ll be a number of different guys who can step up, either if they’re starters, potential conference all-stars or even off the bench as role players.
“I’m sure everyone will push to make an impact, that will do whatever is needed on any given night.”
Although Farrero still has a lot of work ahead of him for next season, he sees COTR and Cranbrook as an excellent place to build something long-term.
“I was fortunate enough to have done it for the past two seasons at Memorial University and I’m really excited for a new group,” Farrero said. “[Cranbrook] is a beautiful city and a great location. It’s pretty central to a lot of different recruiting hotbeds. It’s close to the Okanagan [and] you can get to the lower mainland [or] southern Alberta.
“I’m excited to see the kind of program that the athletes and I can build at COTR.”
The Avalanche’s season will kick off on Friday, October 20 against the Camosun Chargers in a back-to-back series on their home court.