Words by Jack Nadelhoffer
When the Trinity Western women's volleyball coach Ryan Hofer first saw Alison Quiring playing, he was impressed. What he saw was a talented athlete from Brandon, Man. with great height who could move amazingly well for her height. She even had an older sister, Angelica Quiring, who was already an established player with the Calgary Dinos. Then, after a visit to TWU during that same year, Quiring liked what she saw and committed.
The year before Quiring ever stepped foot on TWU's campus, Hofer knew he had a good squad, ending the regular season with a 17-5 record, winning a Canada West bronze medal and earning a fifth-place finish at the national championship tournament. Yet an opposing coach saw something the team still lacked.
"You're missing something," the coach said. "When I look at your bench, they're not really engaged in what's going on."
Although neither Quiring nor Hofer knew it at the time, the graduate of Neelin High School proved to be that missing piece. In her first year at TWU, 2014-15, the Spartans won their first-ever national championship. Hofer recalls Quiring's first year as the beginning of a culture shift within the program.
"That year, we brought in Alison and a couple of other players and they developed this culture on the bench that kept them involved, giving encouragement and feedback, and it didn't matter if they were on the floor or not," Hofer says. "She is a key founder in creating a pretty special culture on the sideline that really gives back to those who are playing."
As Quiring moved into her second year with TWU, the team's culture and its energetic bench became a hallmark of the Spartans success. The result, as the years went on, was a culture of encouragement – one in which players embraced their individual roles and contributions, be it on or off the court.
None of this is to say Quiring didn't struggle with her role initially. She is the first to say her Spartans experience isn't what she originally expected.
"When you're really good in high school, it never crosses your mind that you're not going to be on the court," admits Quiring, whose starting role on senior night this year marked just the second start of her career.
She struggled in her first two years when she wasn't getting the playing time she was used to as a star high school athlete. Quiring said she finally adjusted when she began thinking about things in the right way. She compared her problems to the broader scope of the world and decided she didn't actually have it too bad. She was a scholarship athlete on one of the best volleyball teams in the country.
Instead of focusing on herself, Quiring decided to focus her efforts on encouraging her teammates on the court – aiming to help in any way she could.
"She has never voiced a disgruntled attitude," Hofer says. "She has always worked hard and I really appreciate that she feels she can make an impact no matter what role she is in. Even in the last two years we have changed her position from middle to outside and there was a realistic chance that her performance would dip going to a new position. It's almost like she has taken on a new challenge. She's fun to coach and she's an encouraging, fantastic young woman who is a great leader."
Although the Spartans women's volleyball team doesn't carry an official captain, Quiring has helped fill that role for the Spartans this year – taking care of the pre-match coin toss, signing the scoresheet after games, and, of course, leading the culture of involvement on the sidelines.
"We're captain-less, but we're not leader-less," Hofer says. "I was hoping someone like herself would jump at the chance to lead this team and she has stepped up and done a great job."
Quiring believes it is her responsibility to embody what it means to be a Spartan and continue to build upon the culture she has helped foster.
"I'm definitely a team culture person," Quiring says. "I'm the one making sure everyone is having a good time. Whenever girls get too intense, I'm there to balance it out."
Quiring's efforts have not gone without results. The team just wrapped up one of its most successful Canada West regular season in program history, finishing second in the conference with a 19-5 record, which marked just the third time TWU has ever won 19 games in the regular season.
For Quiring, she has less than three weeks remaining in her Spartans career. She's on track to graduate with a degree in linguistics this spring and is set to become a five-time Academic All-Canadian. Pause for a moment. That's impressive.
Indeed, a national championship remains her on-court dream finish, but her contributions to the program and the team's culture is already a glowing example of what it means to be a Spartan.
And, while her university chapter begins to close, her culture-carrying leadership is just be getting going.
After graduating, she plans to work in speech pathology with children, where she will continue to be a bridge to communication, encouraging children to improve their speech and connect with people – something that perfectly encompasses her time at Trinity Western and her role as a Spartan.