Full circle with Kings Volleyball
Schulha adds Hansen in championship year
The names Aaron Schulha and Keith Hansen are synonymous with the winning tradition of Red Deer College Kings Volleyball. As former student-athletes and then coaches, the RDC alumni have both played prominent roles in the Kings’ 13 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Men’s Volleyball National Championships, the most in the nation
Together, they will look to add to that historic total as the Kings will host nationals from March 7-9 at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. Head Coach Schulha saw the tremendous value in bringing Hansen, his former coach, back to the staff after a dozen years hiatus from the Kings.
“Keith’s eye and mind for the game are super quick like nobody else I’ve ever been around,” says Schulha, the 2014 CCAA Coach of the Year recipient. “He picks up on things that others don’t. With a guy like that, we are doing ourselves a disservice not asking him to help coach, because he’s something special.”
This will not be Hansen’s first time involved in the national championship hosted by RDC. Hansen played for the Red Deer College Kings Volleyball team in 1987, the last time the Kings hosted the CCAA Championship. “In 1986-87, we lost to Limoilou in the semi-final match and we ended up getting bronze,” he says of their performance.
After studying, and assisting with the Golden Bears, at the University of Alberta, Hansen started coaching the Kings in 1994. He led them to three national championships and then took a leave of absence to coach in Europe during the 2000-2001 academic year, the same season Schulha first wore the crown as a student-athlete. When Hansen returned to RDC the following year, the two were introduced.
“Richard Schick was my first coach at the College and then I had Keith the next two years. In the run of eight national championships, I was part of winning three ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) and three CCAA Championships from 2001 to 2003,” says Schulha. “Keith was an incredible coach and a super knowledgeable guy, who always got the most out of his athletes. He still is as competitive as they come.”
After Schulha’s time as an RDC student-athlete, he played with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, where he earned a Canada West Men’s Volleyball Championship and a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), now U Sports, National title in 2004-2005. As a student-athlete and coach, Schulha has won a combined eight ACAC and Canada West Championships, and seven CCAA and U Sports National Championships. Along with his four national championships as a player, the dedicated leader will be looking for his fourth national title as a coach in March, which would place him in a rare and elite category.
Over Hansen’s 12 years coaching at Red Deer College, he won nine ACAC and nine CCAA Championships, along with four ACAC and two CCAA Men’s Volleyball Coach of the Year awards. After the Kings won an incredible eight consecutive national titles from 2000 to 2007, Hansen felt it was time to pass the reins to Schulha, who he saw tremendous potential as his coaching successor.
“Moving on from coaching was a combination of things, including having a young family,” says Hansen, an Alberta Volleyball Hall of Fame Inductee. “Aaron was a great player and leader. A couple of years before I thought that I’d be done coaching, I told Aaron that I’d like him to eventually replace me. He was always my first choice.” Then, Hansen took on the position of RDC Athletic Director, and held that role for over seven years until returning to the classroom as a full-time Kinesiology instructor.
Schulha took over as Kings Volleyball Head Coach in 2007 and was grateful for Hansen’s inspiration. “Keith encouraged me to go after my master’s in coaching. I am forever indebted to him, and he is definitely my coaching mentor,” says Schulha. “He wanted it to be my program off the hop, which I definitely appreciated. Keith felt it was important to give me the necessary space to allow me to build and shape my own program, and he was always a tremendous support for me.”
With three national and four ACAC Championships as head coach, along with three ACAC and one CCAA Men’s Volleyball Coach of the Year awards, Schulha carried on the winning legacy, putting his own stamp on the Kings Volleyball program.
“It was a big step coming in here after they won eight in a row, but I have built the program to be my own,” says Schulha. “It’s nice to come full circle and bring Keith back in our first year at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. I hope we can get him his tenth national championship at the end of the year.”
The Kings Volleyball program continues to write history. “I think the program speaks for itself. It is the most successful college program in the country, and Aaron has played a huge role in that,” says Hansen. “Our alumni are very proud of everything that we do, and I feel very honoured by that.”
In 2016, the Red Deer College Kings Volleyball team was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame for its run of eight consecutive national championships from 2000 to 2007, which is the longest in CCAA history. Each of those CCAA title winning Kings squads were also inducted into the ACAC Hall of Fame team category in 2017. During that stretch of championships, the Kings went 89-9 during the regular season, 23-0 in the ACAC playoffs and 24-0 at the CCAA Championships.
As the Kings prepare to host and play in the 2019 CCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship on their home court in early March, there is no doubt that the RDC team will be ready to compete for its 14th national title with Schulha, Hansen and other Kings alumni, Blake Henwood, Adam Sillery and Braden O’Toole, guiding this team of gifted student-athletes.
As Hansen speaks about his role and this year’s Kings Volleyball team, his excitement is evident. “I absolutely love when I’m in the gym with the team. We are starting to see how good they can be,” he says. “I have no doubt that it will be a fantastic national championship.”
Tickets for the CCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship can be purchased online at rdc.ab.ca/tickets.
For more information on the CCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championship from March 7 to 9, 2019, please visit: ccaa.ca.