Daniel Lethbridge was the founder of the Midland Volleyball Association (MVA) in 1989, in response to the desire expressed by a group of local high-school girls to play club volleyball at a competitive level. The Georgian Bay Volleyball Club replaced the MVA a year later, and Lethbridge has been the club’s heart and soul for its entire history.
Players for Vista teams in the first few years of the program came almost exclusively from elementary and secondary schools in the Midland/ Penetanguishene area. Players did join the club from other areas across Huronia, but the strength of the club has been its focus on helping local athletes develop their skills.
Lethbridge recalls the club’s humble beginnings with only nine players, and reflects with pride on the lengthy list of girls (approximately two dozen) who have gone on to play at the college and university levels in Canada and the United States. The successes of the teams, and the players who comprise them, have always been Lethbridge’s main focus — a hallmark of any true coach.
Over the years, Vista teams have amassed an impressive record at the provincial level: two Division One Ontario provincial championships, one Division One silver medal, four Division One bronze medals, and three Division One fourth-place finishes. They have also finished twice in the top 10 at the national championships. Five Vista club members have represented Ontario at the National Volleyball Games and one was on the national team.
Recently, a house league was added to the Vista program (ironically, a house league was created when the club was formed in 1990, as well). Perhaps it is in this area that Lethbridge’s volleyball vision is most significant – success at a provincial level or higher can only occur through solid grassroots development. As the sport of volleyball has evolved into a game of increasing specialization, Lethbridge continues to stress the importance of learning the fundamentals – serving, passing, proper positioning, and hustle.
But what is even more impressive is the number of roles that Lethbridge has served in the GBVC. During the club’s early years, he was the head coach of as many as three teams in three different age divisions, while assisting with a fourth. Those responsibilities usually saw him on the road for tournaments at least three weekends a month, traveling to locations ranging from Ottawa to Windsor to Sudbury, plus up to three nights of practices each week. And that was in addition to his role as club president, and coordinator and regular worker at bingo and other fundraisers.
While he would prefer to talk about the successes of the GBVC, Lethbridge has had numerous other accomplishments as part of a lifelong career in the sport of volleyball. He played at St. Theresa’s High School and the University of Guelph. He has been a Provincial-level referee. He served on the Competitions Committee and the Athlete Development Committee of the Ontario Volleyball Association. He has conducted regional and provincial clinics and has been a guest coach for the girls’ provincial team training centre. And, for nine summers, he coached the Central West Ontario team at the Ontario Summer and Regional Volleyball Games, winning two gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
In recognition of his accomplishments, Lethbridge was honoured as the Ontario Volleyball Association developmental coach of the year in 2002-2003, and was a recipient of a Certificate of Recognition from the OVA in 1996 for his volunteer efforts in support of youth volleyball.