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Extramural volleyball head coach Bonnie Tran helmed the team at UTM's co-ed tournament

At George Brown Athletics and Recreation, development doesn't apply to athletes alone. From event staff to student therapists, the department serves as a hub of hands-on experience.

That opportunity also extends to the coaches' bench, which is where one can now find Bonnie Tran.

As a varsity athlete, Tran played with George Brown's women's volleyball team over the last two seasons. This year, the Mississauga native is serving as both an assistant coach with her former squad, as well as head coach of George Brown's extramural co-ed volleyball program.

"My life has rotated around volleyball," Tran said with a smile. "And George Brown can't get rid of me."

The libero soaked up two years worth of lessons and knowledge from the Huskies coaching staff, led at the time by Dana Cooke. The coach's approach, one consistent with the expectations of modern athletes, clearly resonated with her former player.

"The fact that she told me to do something, and then explained why," Tran gave as an example. "And then when I did it, she said, 'Did you feel the difference between how you did it before and how you did it now?' That's what I liked about (her approach), and I'll be using that in my coaching."

Collaboration and explanation are key cornerstones to today's coach-athlete relationship. They're a foundation which the team's current head coach, Daphne Choi, also builds upon.

"Daphne does the exact same thing as well," Tran said. "She explains why and how the body moves. I feel that works with the team, and for myself, I grew as a player because I knew why, what was wrong with my body and how to fix it."

By virtue of her being on the squad over the last two seasons, Tran has many pre-existing relationships on the team. Those who know her were unsurprised by the move into coaching.

"She's hard working, able to focus and do a lot of things at once," remarked team manager Jorge Cordero. "I think she's built up a foundation for (coaching). It doesn't surprise me at all; it's deserved."

According to Tran, the coaching learning curve has been one of "knowing what to say and when to say it." And as she finds her own voice as a coach, she's also been able to lend an ear.

As someone who was on the team just last year, Tran has a special connection to the current student-athletes. Both on and off the court, she can serve as motivator, confidant, bridge and sounding board, depending on what's needed.

"She's so knowledgeable about the game, I'm not shocked that she came back as a coach," said Huskies outside hitter Julia Vit, a former teammate of Tran's. "… she relates to us, she's played with us before. She can help us with school stuff or anything that she's gone through, she can relay to us."

The hats Tran wears aren't limited to the coaches' bench. Since September, she has also served as Events and Marketing Assistant, a position which comes with a clear mandate: Putting bums in seats.

"In terms of in-game activation, it's trying to get people engaged, get people excited to go to games, which leads to getting bums in seats," she said, citing the importance of developing word-of-mouth. Having graduated from George Brown College's Sport and Event Marketing program, Tran is taking its lessons in how to contact and connect with people.

For her, the task of fostering a fun environment which people want to be a part of goes beyond the bleachers. Just as important is creating that atmosphere with both her promo staff and the varsity squad, an approach which Tran believes pays dividends in what people bring to the table, whether it's at work, practice or games.

Between coaching and promotion, Tran is steeped in the athletics department's goings-on. Listening to her former teammate, George Brown College couldn't have found a better quality of person to bring into the fold.

"She's one of the best people I've ever met," Vit beamed. "She's super motivated and super determined. She's always a person you can talk to about any problem ever, and she'll give you advice.

"She's the best."