Like mother like daughter
Old Perlican teen follows mom’s footsteps in volleyball
Nadine Kelly of Old Perlican says it’s been a big jump going from high school play to training with Memorial University’s women’s volleyball team. But if she has any questions, mom is only a phone call away.
Nadine’s mother, Joan Kelly, was a member of the Sea-Hawks in the early 1980s, helping the team win an Atlantic universities championship in 1981.
A first year engineering student at MUN, Nadine says she was always around volleyball as a child. She can remember being in elementary school when her mother was coach of the high school team at the former North Shore Collegiate in Northern Bay, where Nadine would sit in on practices and watch the players work with mom.
“My kids who I was coaching would take care of her,” says Joan. “She’d go get water or just be the little star on the bench with all these older kids who gave her lots of attention. She enjoyed that.”
By Grade 6, Joan was coaching her own daughter.
“Ever since then, I’ve really liked it, and I’ve kept playing,” says Nadine, now 18.
Her play in high school earned her accolades, including the female athlete of the year award last year at Baccalieu Collegiate. Joan now teaches at that school, and coached her daughter through most of junior and senior high school.
“I didn’t find it too bad,” says Nadine of having her mother as a coach. “ I kind of found it good ... it was comforting having someone you knew as a coach.”
Nadine also played soccer in St. John’s during the summer, took swimming lessons, figure skated in Harbour Grace, played badminton and floor hockey at school, and competed in biathlon through cadets.
Joan, who was known as Joan Buck during her own playing days at MUN, grew up in St. John’s, and played a variety of high school sports, including badminton, field hockey, and volleyball. She made the 1979 Canada Winter Games team that competed in Brandon, Man., and began to play with some members of the MUN team around that time. Joan was also a member of the junior national team in 1980 and 1981.
Growing up, Nadine says she was aware her mother’s history with MUN volleyball, and knew she was good, but since joining the university club and hearing a few stories about Joan’s playing days, she has a newfound appreciation for mom’s career. The Atlantic University Sport title in 1981 was a particularly noteworthy achievement, as it remains one of three titles claimed by the women’s team in 50 years of play.
“After coming to MUN and hearing a few stories, I realized she was a lot better than she let on.”
After finishing high school, Nadine knew she wanted to keep on playing, and recognized MUN presented a solid option for doing so. This season she’s a red-shirted member of the team, which means Nadine trains with the team but does not play in games or travel with the club. This designation means she will not lose a year of eligibility to play.
“ We still get the experience of training and getting better,” she says. Hard work The training required to play up to the standards of her teammates has been an adjustment for the five-footnine Nadine, who got a head start by travelling from Old Perlican to St. John’s over the summer to practice with the team.
“I think that helped a lot, because it gave me a better idea of what was expected, and of how things went in here,” says Nadine, who did not know many of her fellow teammates prior to joining the MUN squad.
Joan says it’s hard to compare Nadine’s abilities to her own at the same age, as the level of play is likely higher than it was when she attended MUN, where she completed studies in physical education.
“ The only thing was I played in St. John’s at a bigger school. We were playing in tournaments every second weekend. We travelled to Nova Scotia and out west, so I kind of had more experience under my belt at the same age as Nadine is.”
Additionally, Joan completed high school two full years aheard of Nadine at the age of 16.
Down the road, there may even be another member of the Kelly clan to draw comparisons with. Nadine’s brother Aaron is a six-foot-five volleyball player who is now in Grade 11 at Baccalieu Collegiate. He was offered a spot on a provincial team last year but was unable to join due to cadet commitments. Joan says he hopes to continue playing volleyball beyond high school.
When she was a player, Joan says there was a need to focus on both defensive and offensive skills, but in today’s game, there are more specialized roles, placing more emphasis on developing individual skills.
Playing volleyball at MUN helped motivate Joan to succeed in school, and also played a role in her decision to pursue a major in physical education. If anything, she says her daughter faces a greater challenge by tackling engineering while also taking part in varsity sports. This semester, Nadine is taking six courses, and unlike Joan, who was able to live at home with her parents while attending university, she is responsible for looking after herself.
While Joan will have to wait until next season to watch her daughter play for MUN, she says it’s a moment she will look forward to.
“I’ll be there with bells and whistles on to cheer her on and encourage her, I guess the same as when she played here at Baccalieu Collegiate with our school team.”
Joan is also pleased to know Nadine will get to hone her skills under the watch of coach Bill Thistle, who was Joan’s coach during her own playing days at MUN.
“I really think he did so much for me as a player that was phenomenal, and probably not always appreciated at that time 30 years ago,” says Joan. “I think he’s doing the same with Nadine and these players today, and to think she has that opportunity — it amazes me.”
Nadine Kelly spikes the ball during a practice with the Memorial University women’s volleyball team. The first-year engineering student from Old Perlican is following in the footsteps of her mother, Joan Kelly, who played for MUN 30 years ago.
Joan Kelly was known as Joan Buck during her playing days with the MUN women’s volleyball team, seen here posing for a team photo from 1980. Joan’s daughter, Nadine Kelly, is now in her first year with the Sea-Hawks.