When a head coach is looking for an assistant, finding the right fit requires threading a number of needles. It's a task easier said than done, and this was the challenge Garrett May, head coach of George Brown's men's volleyball team, faced in the offseason.
"You want to have good chemistry with somebody, and you want your assistant to do what you tell them but also be able to question you in a healthy way," explained May, whose accolades include a Beach Volleyball Junior World Championship gold medal, CIS silver medal and being named OCAA 2017-18 Men's Volleyball Coach of the Year. "So to have somebody who you're really close with, I think is pretty important."
As things turned out, the Huskies head coach didn't need to look further than his own family tree.
"Honestly, it wasn't a very hard decision for me to say yes and come help Garrett out here at George Brown," said Reed May, GBC's newly-minted assistant coach and Garrett May's younger brother. "I was eager to continue coaching and get back involved with a university or college program.
"We've played together a few times, but this is the first time we're coaching together. It was an exciting opportunity that I was ready to take."
Like his brother before him, Reed May comes to the George Brown Huskies sporting an impressive resume. From his time with the Alberta Golden Bears, the libero has two U SPORTS championships and four medals overall to his name, not to mention multiple national championships with the Crush Volleyball Club. He dove into coaching following his university career, serving as an assistant with York University's women's volleyball squad, not to mention a head coaching stint with Soul Machine of the ONE Volleyball Premier League.
While they're both high-level competitors, Garrett and Reed May are a study of contrasts on the coaches' bench. The former's seat is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine, so seldom does the animated, always standing head coach actually use it. On the flipside, the latter provides a staid sight, presenting advice and commentary in a more reserved fashion.
"He is totally different from me and totally the same, in some funny ways," said Garrett. "… We're so similar with our volleyball upbringing, but our styles are definitely very different."
"It's funny, I would say that in our personal lives, I'm a little bit more outgoing than Garrett, a little louder maybe," said Reed. "But Garrett is definitely the more intense coach."
The resulting duo has been exactly what was hoped for. To watch them is to behold a seemingly perfect split in duties and approach, and the ease with which each fulfills their role could not be more natural.
"We're a pretty good one-two punch, as far as him bringing a lot of the intensity and mental toughness to the team, and then me bringing in a little bit more tactical coaching strategy and a little more technical help for the guys," said Reed.
In his third year at the Huskies helm, the elder May brother is no stranger to reflecting upon his time with George Brown. His own self-confessed growth as a coach has seen him go from looking to change and correct everything, to "How can I help these men be the best versions of themselves… and make them something unique?"
A coach's voice does not resonate with every athlete in the same manner. The stylistic differences between himself and his brother, and how one can better reach some players than others, is an element Coach Garrett is fully aware and appreciative of.
"They've been hearing me yell at them and be super intense for a couple of years now," said Garrett, "and to have Reed come in and be saying similar things in a different way and a calmer, more relaxed tone, it hits home with a few of our guys a lot more."
Given how their father is volleyball legend John May, it's no surprise that both Garrett and Reed lived and breathed the sport growing up. Outside of volleyball however, the two wholeheartedly agreed on a common denominator between them: video games.
"We played the classics, we played Nintendo, a lot of Mario, a lot of Donkey Kong," said Reed, listing Super Smash Bros. as one of his favourites to play alongside his brother and friends.
As accomplished athletes, it's easy to imagine a fiercely competitive relationship between them. The two even faced off against one another in the CIS Men's Volleyball National Championship, with Reed's Alberta Golden Bears getting the better of Garrett's Western Mustangs. But to listen is to hear something different entirely.
"We never competed with each other, which was very interesting," said Garrett, who when not wearing his GBC hat is both a game developer and the YouTube creator behind Yes Guy Gaming. "People go, 'Oh, I assumed you guys competed at everything, you must have been at each other's throats all the time.' It wasn't really like that with Reed and I."
"Because we had a pretty intense volleyball scene, where everything was so competitive all the time… when it was just he and I, we would either take turns or play cooperative games as kind of a break from the competitive energy that we enjoyed as part of our volleyball. We had to balance it out somehow, and that was our way of doing that."
Now the brothers have taken the best of both those worlds, working cooperatively to succeed within the competitive OCAA volleyball scene, and their Huskies student-athletes are the beneficiaries.
Having both Garrett and Reed May is "making us into a more knowledgeable team," said veteran Yuseph Jackman, who described the wealth of knowledge and experience between them as unfathomable. "There's a bit of a contrast in their personalities; they see the game differently. It's like chess, you have multiple people who are really good at chess, but each player sees the board a bit differently."
Despite that contrast, Jackman also emphasized the similarity between them. Because beyond volleyball, video games, and even blood, where Garrett and Reed May are in lockstep is between the ears: Their championship mentality.
"They're both headstrong guys, there's no deterring them from what they want, and that's why they're so much alike," said Jackman. "They're both champions, so no matter what, they're going to get us there."