As part of their 50th anniversary celebration, the University of Calgary Dinos athletic department trusted me to write profiles about each inductee into the Dinos Hall of Fame, Class of 2017. I’ll post the profiles I wrote as they get released over the next two weeks. It was a pleasure to work with the university. I am very thankful for their trust.
For a man who only used volleyball as a way to stay in shape for basketball season, Kevin Boyles turned out to be one of the greatest volleyball contributors in University of Calgary Dinos’ history.
Boyles’ story spans more than a five-year eligibility career. He performed, worked and conquered at every level possible for the university. He is the only person in Dinos history that can say he won a national championship as a player, a head coach and an athletic director.
His journey began the summer between his Grade 11 and 12 years, when he tried out for the provincial team and performed in front of future Dinos coach, Greg Ryan.
“He was an inexperienced 16-year-old when I first saw him play. Even then, I could tell right away that there was something special about him,” said Ryan.
Ryan took the job at the university in 1985 and brought along Boyles, who was buried on the provincial team depth chart at that time. Ryan’s first order of business was anointing Boyles as the captain of the team.
Boyles quickly forged a formidable core with Randy Gingera and Kelly Grosky, solidifying the Dinos lineup for years to come.
CORE TRIO GREW TOGETHER
The three all stars grew together, on and off campus. In the offseason, they worked out with the junior national team and graduated to the national B team, returning to Calgary each fall stronger and smarter than the year before.
“Things started rolling for us once we began playing and training year-round,” said Boyles. “Playing with the national team really helped our game improve and gave us a glimpse on how good we could become if we stuck with this.”
Each season was a building block as the team peaked for the 1988-89 season, where they ran the table undefeated, capturing the second men’s volleyball national championship in school history.
If you were to create the perfect volleyball player prototype in a lab, you probably wouldn’t have ended up with a product like Boyles. He was undersized at the position he played and wasn’t the highest leaper in the gym. But, what he lacked in physical tools, he more than made up for in his wits.
“He was very level-headed and an intelligent player. At 6-foot-4, he was a small middle blocker in university and even smaller with the national team. He had to play smart in order to succeed,” said Gingera, Kevin’s teammate for four years.
Capitalizing on his momentum, Boyles took his talents to Germany, for his first year in the professional circuit. A knee injury shortened his season, but didn’t end his career.
All those years of putting his time in with the junior national team paid off when he was accompanied by former Dinosaurs teammate, Gingera, on the national team for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. The team placed 10th.
The middle blocker returned for the 1993-94 season for one last kick at the can, before his body and father time told him that enough was enough.
He still managed to be named Canada West player of the year and was selected as a first team CIAU All-Canadian for the 1994 campaign.
COACHING: AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE
Following his playing career, Boyles took a job with Alberta Volleyball, but instantly knew it wasn’t for him. He teamed up with Ryan once again, this time as an assistant on the men’s team for five seasons, from 1994-98.
While he was working on his master’s degree, the women’s volleyball head coaching position opened.
“I had never worked with a women’s team up until that point. I had to think about it for a while before eventually taking it,” said Boyles. “That first year was a real eye-opening experience.”
That first season, the Dinos went 8-14.
Just like he did at every stop in his career, Boyles learnt from his experience and became better because of it.
Amanda Moppett-Beatch was one of the freshmen that joined the Dinos during Boyles’ first year in charge.
“That first season was difficult for everyone. It was a rebuilding year. We were just getting to know Kevin and he was working on getting to know us,” said Moppett-Beatch. “After that, he added the necessary recruits each year to try and take us to the next level. He always knew how to improve our team.”
Year by year, Boyles built a winner. His nine-year run behind the bench of the women’s program was highlighted by capturing the national championship in 2003-04, Moppett-Beatch’s final year.
“Out of all my years at the U of C, that 2003-04 team was my favourite. Those girls all worked so hard and to see some of them finally win in their last year, was pretty special,” said Boyles.
EARNED THE RESPECT OF PLAYERS, STAFF
“We respected him because he was a former player. A lot of coaches want to be too involved in the game. Kevin was always calm, cool and collected. He never lost hope in us and always brought a positive attitude to everything he did,” said Moppett-Beatch, who was named CIS championship MVP.
“The wealth of knowledge he was able to pass down to his girls teams from his experience at every level, knowledge of the game was probably more than any other coach could offer,” said Gingera.
As the women’s head coach, Boyles went 140-44 (.760 winning percentage) in conference and 37-19 (.627) in the playoffs. His squads made eight consecutive trips to nationals, winning four bronze medals. Boyles was named Canada West coach of the year in 2001 and 2005, and won the Marilyn Pomfert Award as CIS coach of the year in 2005.
“I had the best players for eight years and surrounded myself with the best athletes. After a certain point, the success breeds onto itself and we kept winning,” said Boyles.
Boyles left his post behind the bench in 2008 and took over as athletic director.
“I really loved that job. I thought it would the job I kept until I decided to retire,” said Boyles.
While only athletic director for three years, he still oversaw eight national titles across the department.
“Winning as a coach was the most difficult. As a player, you had direct impact on the game. As a coach, you could only do so much from the sidelines. The easiest was winning as an athletic director. All I did was hire the right people, sit back and watch. I didn’t have to go home and watch tape or come up with practice plans,” joked Boyles.
Boyles was named one of the 40 Greatest Dinos of All Time in 2006.
These days, Boyles is the Chief Executive Officer of the Calgary Winter Club. Admitting that the university was a hard place to leave when he did in 2011, Boyles has been working with the club ever since, providing a place for members to train, socialize and to develop a lifelong physical and social wellbeing.
Photos courtesy of the University of Calgary athletic department.