Westwood a sideline success story


One of Winnipeg’s rising volleyball coaches admits she didn’t expect the accolades and accomplishments to pile up so soon.

Maiya Westwood had experienced success on the court in high school and university. The resident of East St. Paul was a junior varsity and varsity AAAA provincial champion at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute and a 2016-17 Atlantic University Sport first-team all-star while playing at Memorial University (St. John’s, N.L.)

<p>Bohdan Dyck Photography</p><p>Maiya Westwood (second from left) has an excellent understanding of what it takes to win, say coaching legend Mike Burchuk.</p>

Bohdan Dyck Photography

Maiya Westwood (second from left) has an excellent understanding of what it takes to win, say coaching legend Mike Burchuk.

With her competitive playing days behind her, an unexpected leap into a head-coaching role at Westgate Collegiate four years ago has made Westwood, 24, a sideline success.

“I told myself and everybody else that I would assistant coach for at least 10 years before I would ever head coach a team,” she said Friday. “Then I got started head coaching right away and was not expecting that.”

Westwood was recently named Volleyball Manitoba’s elite coach of the year, an honour coming on the heels of guiding the 18U Jr. Bisons boys club team to a national championship title in May. She was also named the province’s AAAA high school coach of the year in December after leading the varsity boys squad to its first Manitoba title in 43 years.

A handful of the student-athletes played on both teams.

“It’s just amazing to see them grow up and have all that success, I feel really lucky to have even been asked to coach that first team,” said Westwood. “To continue on with this group, they’re so amazing… especially as my first group as a coach, too.”

One of her mentors is Mike Burchuk, a sure-fire volleyball legend in these parts. Almost everything Burchuk touched during his coaching career turned to gold.

The Canada West conference hall-of-famer led the University of Winnipeg Wesmen women’s team to six consecutive national championships (1983-88), was four times named Canadian university Coach of the year, and was an inaugural member of the school’s Ring of Honour.

So, it comes as no surprise he had a hand in Westwood’s development, coaching her with the Shock Volleyball Club from 2010-15. Burchuk also coached Westwood’s mother, Brenda — a legend in her own right — with the Wesmen in the late 1980s.

“It’s nice when you do well and you win and you get gold, but the path is never easy,” said Burchuk. “Whether it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning or anybody that does well… most of the public doesn’t see the behind-the-scenes struggles and the challenges that coaches and players face.

“Maiya’s had her share but has just handled any kind of difficulties or challenges that she’s had and she’s been so mature about it and level-headed. It’s unusual to see that in someone that young.”

Burchuk said any Manitoba coach can attest to just how hard it is to win a national championship at the competitive level, particularly when provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia are “loaded with physical talent.”

“(Maiya) has an excellent understanding of what it takes to win and is able to project that knowledge on her athletes,” said Burchuk.

Brenda (Boroski) Westwood’s name was added to the U of W’s Ring of Honour in December 2019. She is also a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

While children of star athletes are often thrust into the sport their parents played and saddled with unreasonably high expectations, Maiya said that wasn’t an issue for her and her siblings. She said having support from her parents along the way helped her carve out her own path in the sport.

“I could never amount to what my mom has done in volleyball — she’s on a level of legend,” said Maiya. “That’s not my goal necessarily, they’ve always just been so supportive of me in whatever I do.

“The amount of knowledge she has about volleyball and about winning… I just couldn’t pay for that kind of knowledge.”

Maiya won’t return as coach of the Jr. Bisons next season and isn’t sure of her long-term plans. But there’s likely a position out there if she wants it.

“I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and, obviously it’s very humbling and flattering that people want me to be part of their programs,” said Westwood. “But having coached school and club volleyball for four years in a row, I’m looking forward to a bit of a break as well.”

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