(FREDERICTON, NB) The UNB Varsity Reds are pleased to announce that Christine Biggs has been hired as the head coach of the women’s volleyball team.
She becomes the 18th head coach in team history, and succeeds Jilliane Portelli, who resigned earlier this year.
“I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the UNB Varsity Reds,” said Biggs. “I'm excited for the chance to work with such an eager group of athletes, and an experienced and supportive team of coaches, administrators, and faculty.”
For the past three-and-a-half years, Biggs has served as an assistant coach with the University of Alberta Pandas women’s volleyball team. Among her duties, she scouted opposition defences, worked as libero coach and helped coordinate recruitment.
During the same period, Biggs has also worked as the assistant coach with Canada’s women’s sitting volleyball team, helping guide the team through the 2016 Paralympic Games, in Brazil, and the 2016 Intercontinental Cup, in China.
Since 2000, she’s worked in various capacities with Volleyball Alberta. Most recently, she was the head coach of Team Alberta’s silver medal winning girls U18 team at the 2017 Canada Summer Games, and girls U17 team that captured gold at the 2016 National Team Challenge.
Biggs has also served in various capacities with the Pandas Volleyball Club, coaching teams at several different age and competition levels.
“I'm so fortunate to have seen the value of an athletics program and academic program working well together during my time as a student, athlete, and assistant coach at the U of A,” she said. “I was looking for a similar model, one where the academics and athletics could mutually benefit one another, where teaching and learning is a big part of the culture and athletics environment.”
John Richard, UNB’s Director of Athletics and a former head coach of the Varsity Reds women’s volleyball team, is excited to have Biggs on board.
“She was the best from a very strong field of candidates,” said Richard. “Her experience as an assistant coach and a player at the U SPORTS level helped distinguish her during the hiring process. We think she’s capable of moving our program forward, and doing it quickly.”
Richard was impressed with Biggs extensive resume.
“Christine has developed experience on so many levels. She’s worked as a head coach, as an assistant, as a club program coordinator. She’s worked with teams competing internationally, nationally and provincially. She came highly recommended and was someone we just couldn’t pass on,” he said.
As a player, Biggs was an outside hitter and middle at both Grant MacEwan College, in Edmonton, and Red Deer College, before joining the University of Alberta Pandas as a libero. Biggs was a member of the Pandas’ 2007 national championship team, and the 2008 Pandas’ team that played in the national championship hosted by UNB, at the Aitken Centre.
Having earned Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Physical Education Degrees from the University of Alberta, Biggs worked as a teacher in Edmonton’s public school system until returning to the U of A to pursue a Master of Coaching Degree, which she’ll complete later this year.
Through the National Coaching Certification Program, Biggs holds Certified Development Coach, Trained Advance Development Coach, Trained Volleyball Performance Coach, and Certified Level 2 Beach Volleyball Coach designations.
Biggs takes over a program that had a difficult 2017-18 season.
She’s already establishing a plan to turn the Varsity Reds around.
“A big part of the transition will be getting to know the athletes, and the strengths they each bring to the table, then tactically using those strengths to our advantage,” she said. “Change takes direction, time, and hard work. The key will be to consistently put in the hard work, and resist feeling impatient with the time it takes to make technical changes.”
Biggs believes change is within reach.
“I believe through hard work and a focus on development, the Varsity Reds will be a playoff team this season,” she said. “While that may seem like a lofty goal for one season, but the athletes are ready and excited to start training. We’ll need to learn to manage our errors, and find the style of play that compliments our resources.”
She has lofty long-term expectations too, but cautions that significant change will take time.
“I’d like to see the program consistently in the hunt for an AUS championship, and represent the conference at U SPORTS championships,” Biggs said. “We absolutely have to respect how tough that process will be. Change and growth do not come quickly or easily, but I have no hesitations that we've got the capacity and resources to demand it of ourselves and of one another.”
Biggs officially takes over the Varsity Reds on June 25th, but due to commitments with Canada’s Women’s Paralympic (Sitting) Team, she won’t be in Fredericton until late July.