Ben Josephson has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
A dual sport star in basketball and volleyball in high school in Alberta, Josephson’s main reason for playing volleyball was in order to increase his vertical leap so that he could slam dunk in basketball.
But while visiting the Trinity Western University campus where he planned to enroll after high school, it became clear that his hoop dreams would not be coming true in Langley. But with his heart set on attending TWU and playing a university sport — he had offers to play basketball at the college level in Alberta — Josephson happened to bump into Spartans volleyball coach Ron Pike.
The rest is history.
Over the next five seasons, Josephson was the team’s starting setter and twice served as a co-captain. After graduating in 2003 with a degree in human kinetics, he spent a year in Colorado, working at a small bible college. And while his plan was to go play professionally in Europe after his fiancee Jennifer — now his wife — graduated, Josephson accepted an assistant coaches position from Pike.
“A lot of things impressed me (about Ben),” Pike said.
“The two biggest things were his athleticism and his mind for the game. He wanted to know how everything ticked and how everything worked; he had a huge appetite for that.”
“In his fifth year, he probably spent more time watching video than I did,” Pike said.
“He loved finding out all the nuances about the other players and the game.”
And after three years at Pike’s side, Josephson — just 27 years old and closer in age to his players compared to some of his coaching counterparts — took over the reigns at one of the country’s preeminent volleyball programs when Pike stepped down in 2007.
Pike recommended Josephson for the job.
“There came a point, right before I transitioned, when you look at the men’s volleyball program, and you realize his skill set was better equipped to do what the men’s volleyball team to do than the skill set I had,” Pike said.
“It has been one of the more enjoyable things I got to watch come to fruition.”
In Josephson’s five years at the helm of the Spartans — with a post-season berth every year — the team won the CIS national silver medal in 2010 before winning back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012.
It has come to the point where Pike — who still does coaching clinics for the High Performance programs with Volleyball BC — calls Josephson for advice, Pike said with a laugh.
The team is currently 11-5 (see page 21) and ranked third in the country.
The 33-year-old credits the groundwork laid by Pike in building the program over his 14 years as being a tremendous help.
“I have been handed a program that pretty much recruits itself, basically,” he said.
All he has done is keep the ball rolling.
He has also surrounded himself with some familiar faces as his staff consists of former teammates Joel Jansen and Ryan Adams, as well as Ben Ball, who was recruited by Josephson and played for the coach from when he was 16 until he graduated last year.
“My obsessive personality is pretty good at keeping things going,” Josephson said, referring to himself as “perfectionist-minded.”
“I have no problem never losing a game at anything. I don’t ever want to lose.”
While some players and coaches live for game day, and the chance to show what they can do, Josephson is the opposite.
“I don’t really like the matches a whole lot, they are too stressful,” he said. “I would rather stay at home and have someone tell me how it goes.
“I love practice and training and preparation.”
He called every Friday and Saturday an evaluation of the job the coaching staff has done.
The key to being successful in coaching is to remain even-keeled.
“Your ability to not get too high or too low,” Josephson said.
“Winning is so much fun and losing hurts so much, especially because the amount of time you and the team put into it.”
And while some coaches may stress to their players to not dwell on a loss, Josephson takes an opposite approach.
“Sometimes when we have a tough loss, we tell the guys ‘let it burn. Don’t move on,’” he said.
“You have to sandpaper a wall before it sticks, rough it up a little bit before you can put something good on.”
One of those losses came in the CIS championship game in 2010, which the Spartans lost.
“I feel that was 100 per cent rookie coaching mistakes,” said Josephson, who was in his third season as head coach.
“I cost our team that win.”
At every practice the next season, the players hung a silver medal on the net as motivation.
The result has been back-to-back gold medals at nationals.
But Josephson doesn’t want his team to rest on its laurels as they look to become the first to win three straight championships.
Josephson keeps three silver medals close by — one by his bed, one in his truck and another in his office — as a constant reminder.
“So everywhere I go it reminds me of where we have come from,” he said. “I don’t want to lose that edge, that response just because we won a couple of gold ones.
“The golds are a product of how well we have trained and prepared and how well that motivated us.
“If you lose that edge, someone will catch you.”
The other challenge is finding the proper balance between work and family.
“The joke I always say is you are leaving the fate of your profession and your family’s livelihood in the hands of a 19-year-old,” he said.
It also requires a balancing act to manage how much time is spent with his team, and how much is with his family, which includes the couple’s son, Cooper, who turned two in November. The Josephsons will welcome a second child in April.