Shanice Marcelle – Assistant Coach, York University Women’s Volleyball (U SPORTS)
By: Dashawn Stephens, PRSVRE
The volleyball career of Victoria, British Columbia native Shanice Marcelle can be defined by three words. Dominance, consistency, and creativity. After being introduced to the sport in the fifth grade, Marcelle began playing club volleyball where her talents would attract the attention of Volleyball Canada. After just two years of playing the sport, Marcelle would join the Canadian National Youth Volleyball team in 2006 and would go on to be a part of the Youth National Program for 4 years. Her tenure with the youth national program was highlighted by a 9th place finish in the 2007 Youth Beach Volleyball World Championships, as well as a 1st place finish in beach volleyball at the 2009 Canada Games. After the culmination of her youth national career in 2010, Marcelle joined the Canadian Senior Indoor Volleyball National team in 2011. Her six years with the program saw her represent Canada on several occasions as she competed at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto as well as the 2011 and 2013 FISU Games. In addition, Marcelle received the honor of being named the Canadian flag bearer for the opening ceremonies at the 2013 FISU Games.
Marcelle’s success as a youth player made her a highly sought after recruit by universities as her dominance was well documented. Ultimately, she decided to stay home and attend the University of British Columbia where she would pursue a degree in Kinesiology. Knowing that UBC had won a National Championship in the year prior to her arrival, Marcelle knew that she was “walking into an elite program that would help her grow”.
It’s often said that consistency is the heart of perfection. To many in the Canadian volleyball community, the collegiate career of Marcelle was nothing short of perfect. In five years with the Thunderbirds, Marcelle would go on to be a 1x BC University Athlete of the Year, 2x Canada West MVP, 1x U SPORTS MVP, 2x U SPORTS Female Athlete of the Year nominee and the 2012-13 U SPORTS Female Athlete of the Year. In addition to her individual accolades, Marcelle helped lead the Thunderbirds to a five-year record of 126-20 that resulted in 4 Canada West Championships and 5 straight National Championships, while being named a 5x National Tournament All-Star.
“At UBC we had incredible team dynamics that came from our coach who had expectations of us, but gave us the freedom to decide how we wanted to be as athletes”
Shanice Marcelle’s five year career at UBC is one of the most decorated collegiate careers in not just U SPORTS volleyball history, but U SPORTS history in general. As an individual, she proved to be the model of consistency as her excellence resulted in sheer dominance.
Her time at UBC didn’t come without character growth. Marcelle credits her experience at UBC as a transformative time in her life as it redefined her approach towards being a leader.
“The UBC days helped me develop my leadership skills. Before I got to UBC, I wasn’t the best teammate…I knew what I wanted to achieve but at UBC my teammates helped me become selfless and helped reframe my leadership style to become self-serving”
After the culmination of her collegiate career, Marcelle would go on to play professional indoor volleyball in Germany. Playing in Germany was a major transition as she went from being “a star at UBC to a role player in the pros”. Despite the role change, Marcelle was able to adjust and thrive in Germany as she won 2 league championships and was named an MVP.
A turning point for Marcelle came when she tore her ACL during her professional indoor career. Although the injury put a pause on her playing days, Marcelle still possessed an urge to have an impact in the volleyball community and share her knowledge. She reached out to the Ontario Volleyball Association and started coaching with Team Ontario, as well as the Region 5 beach volleyball team at the Ontario Summer Games.
” I realized I loved working with young women, sharing everything I’ve learned and giving back general”
After coaching at the provincial level, Marcelle received the opportunity to become the Assistant Coach of the Women’s Volleyball team at York University in 2018. Now entering her third season with the Lions, Marcelle is truly honing in on her mission as a coach.
“You will never hear me yelling in a gym, if there’s something I wanna get across, I do it in a way that empowers people. I want to be clear with the information I’m giving. I really like to know my players. I like to get to know them as more than just an athlete. I really try to empower the athletes to take control”
Even though she’s discovered a new passion in coaching, Marcelle’s playing career continues as a member of the Canadian Senior Beach Volleyball team. Since joining the program in 2018, Marcelle has been ranked 63rd in the world as Canada’s 4th ranked team and is a 2019 National Champion.
Culture within the Culture
Marcelle’s first outward experiences with explicit racism were encountered when she played volleyball professionally abroad.
Dresden is the 4th largest city in Germany. Home to 1.3 million people, Dresden is the 12th most populous city in the country. In her time playing professionally, Marcelle had the opportunity to explore Germany while playing the sport she loved. Despite feeling settled into German culture, Marcelle soon discovered the border-less realities of racism.
“There would be one day a year where I was told not to leave my apartment because there would be neo-nazi demonstrations…Most volleyball players who are white don’t have to consider where they are going overseas. Whereas as if you’re black you have to take into consideration where you are going because hate does exist“
As a coach early into her career, Marcelle has identified being overlooked as the biggest struggle that she has encountered. As a young Black Female coach, Marcelle defies the cultural “norm” of older white coaches within the sport of volleyball. Despite being one of the most decorated players in Canadian volleyball history, many have tried to discredited Marcelle as a coach because she doesn’t correlate with the coaching “norm”. She has often found herself clarifying her role as a coach and not a volunteer. She hopes to see more coaches break through the gender and color barrier that exists in Canadian volleyball
“We need to provide opportunities…whether it be a young black female that wants to get it into coaching or playing, we need to figure out how do we provide that support for those individuals to thrive and receive [an] opportunity”
As Marcelle looks back on her playing career, the lack of racial representation stands out to her as one of the biggest issues within the Canadian volleyball community. Growing up in British Columbia, she was one of few Black athletes within her volleyball community. Throughout her five-year tenure UBC, Marcelle was the only Black athlete play for the program. At the professional level, she continued to notice the trend of very few Black athletes. Marcelle sights financial accessibility as the main cause of this issue.
“There are so many people who can’t get their foot into the door because they can’t afford the cost to play club volleyball”
Growing up, Marcelle came from a single-parent household. However, she credits many people for giving her financially door-opening opportunities throughout her journey. If those doors were never opened, Marcelle doesn’t know who she would be today as she doubts she would’ve had the opportunity to chase her volleyball dreams. Sports has the potential to change lives. By making volleyball financially accessible, Marcelle believes that more lives can be impacted in the same capacity as her own.
The career of Shanice Marcelle can be defined by three words. Dominance, consistency, and creativity. She is one of Canada’s most decorated athletes of the 2010s and is well on her way to becoming a decorated coach in the Canadian volleyball community. More importantly, Marcelle is challenging the status quo of ethnic representation in the Canadian volleyball community. As a player, Shanice Marcelle has already edged her name in Canadian Heritage as a volleyball Trailblazer. Now as she continues the next chapter of her volleyball career, Marcelle looks forward to continuing to use her platform and influence to be a Leader through her Sport.