While some people may know as early as their high school-playing days that they will put their skills and knowledge to use as a coach in their respective sport one day, that was not the case with Ryan Hofer.
Hofer played collegiately with Briercrest College. But he always figured once his schooling was done, he would find a job working with youth, perhaps as a youth pastor.
“I never saw myself coaching full-time,” he admitted.
Yet he has carved out quite the coaching career for himself, including serving as associate head coach of Canada’s entry in the upcoming FISU World University Games in South Korea.
Not bad for someone who jokingly says he slept his way to the top.
Of course the woman whom he slept with to get to this point just happens to be his wife Carol.
The Hofers moved to Langley in the fall of 1999 when Carol accepted the head coaching job for the Trinity Western Spartans women’s volleyball team.
Ryan had done some coaching in clinics and with Volleyball BC and upon their arrival in Langley, they started the Fraser Valley Volleyball Club.
He also did some work as an assistant coach with the TWU men’s team.
Eventually, the Hofers teamed up to coach the TWU women and twice when Carol went on maternity leave, Ryan took the helms as head coach. But after the second leave, Carol did not return, instead taking another position within the TWU athletic department.
And since taking over the head coaching position permanently, he has done quite well for himself, going a combined 141-55 in Canada West conference play — a winning percentage of .719 — and this past season, helped the Spartans win the CIS national championship back in March for the first title in program history.
Prior to that, the Spartans’ best finish had been bronze medals at both the 2011 and 2013 CIS championships and Hofer was the 2011 CIS coach of the year.
Coaching one of the premier volleyball programs — they have made the national championships five consecutive years — definitely has its perks.
“I get to look at the best athletes across the country and hand-pick them,” Hofer said about what he loves about the job.
“I love seeing how sport develops character, develops them at a deeper level. I love seeing them get better at things and improve at a game they are really passionate about and then using that to teach life lessons that they can take with them.”
That is not say there are not challenges with the job.
“You are always trying to make 16 people happy,” he said.
“Everybody is a unique individual, everybody has their opinion. The challenges are getting people to accept the roles that are given to them.”
“I have a bit of a people-pleasing personality, and I have had to battle that a lot, and making decisions that are best for the team,” Hofer added.
“We have one rule, and that is protect the team. So all my decisions have to run through that.”
Another perk of the job is getting plum gigs like leading the Canadian women’s side into the FISU World University Games, which run July 3 to 14 in Gwangju, South Korea.
Four of Hofer’s TWU players — Nikki Cornwall, Kristen Moncks, Alicia Perrin and Elly Wendel — are on the Canadian roster, which spent much of June practising in Langley.
Hofer is serving as associate head coach alongside Olivier Trudel, the head coach of the Montreal Carabins.
And it was the chance to work with Trudel that prompted Hofer to put in a bid to help coach the Canadian side.
“He is just one of those guys you connect well with,” Hofer said.
The pair had coached together at the 2009 FISU Games and Hofer said they have very similar coaching strategies and habits.
The chance to work with him once again was a big reason Hofer was willing to give up part of his summer, especially with his wife and three kids — Brodie, 15, Tyson, 12, and Zachary, nine, — back home in Langley.
Hofer has coached Brodie in club volleyball (see story below).
Hofer said it is a tremendous feeling to lead your country into international competition.
“You have a sense of pride that you are representing something greater than yourself,” he said. “I am extremely proud to be able to take a lot of really good CIS players … and take them up against other universities and just see how we do.”