CCAA Hall of Fame Inductees discuss Capilano careers

CCAA Hall of Fame Inductees discuss Capilano careers

At the CCAA Hall of Fame Ceremony on June 6, 2017 in Abbotsford, the three inductees from Capilano - Joe Iacobellis, Doug Abercrombie, and Melissa Artuso - all shared memories about their careers and their time at Capilano during their induction speeches. Current CapU Athletic Director Milt Williams introduced all three inductees, and also shared memories of each Blue's legacy.

Below is a transcription of select parts of their speech, along with an audio recording of the speeches in their entirety. For more information on Iacobellis, Abercrombie, and Artuso, click here.

Joe Iacobellis

Williams: “Former players used to talk about Joe all the time, and one thing that I always heard about Joe was that he was really cool on the sidelines. He didn’t lose his temper often, and he had a subtle way of telling guys they were doing it the wrong way without yelling at them.

“For example, in 1990 at the National Championships held in Granby, Quebec, the Blues somehow had a 9:00am game on the first day of the tournament, arriving at 11:00pm the evening before. Not surprisingly the Blues fell behind in the must-win game which felt to them like a 6:00am start for a team still on BC time, and were down 3-0 at halftime. So Joe took the guys into the team room and all their heads were down, and inwardly Joe was very unhappy and outwardly the boys were very unhappy. But he just calmly said to the guys ‘if they can score three goals in the first half, we can score four in the second.’ Well lo and behold, they walked out on the field and they scored, and they scored, and they scored, and they scored, and they scored, and they won 5-3.

“An example of how great a coach Joe was is when he retired from coaching in 1993, he came out of retirement in 2001 to rebuild the soccer team that was not doing very well, and Joe felt at that time he could turn this program around. So he steps into the coaching ranks again in 2001; they just barely made the playoffs and then they got knocked out. 2002, he recruits a whole new crew of students and lo and behold he gets to the provincial championship and he loses by one goal. For that accomplishment Joe was named BCCAA Coach of the Year – so for me, that shows what kind of coach Joe was. He was an excellent recruiter, and he could put his money where his mouth was, and he turned the program into a winning program with hard work and dedication.

“Many athletes have so much to thank Joe for. To Joe, winning was definitely important, but graduating was definitely more important – that was Joe’s main emphasis: academic performance off the field and winning second.”

Iacobellis: “I never thought coaching and athletics was going to be my career. I actually was going to be a teacher and do some research – I was in exercise physiology. But I took a fourth-year course in volleyball coaching at UBC, and the instructor was Dale Savage, who played for the national team. And she found out that there was a job opportunity at Langara to coach the women’s volleyball team, and she recommended me to [fellow CCAA Hall of Fame inductee and former Langara Athletic Director] Duncan McCallum – and I have to now thank Dunc for hiring me and actually getting me started into coaching, because I actually had no idea that I’d ever be coaching anybody.

“So I took that job – it was a volunteer job, he never paid me – and the following year, for whatever reason, I was in Europe with three of my buddies after graduating, and we spent four months in Europe. I got a call in Belgium, and the Athletic Director for UBC called and said ‘are you interested in being a graduate student and coaching the women’s varsity volleyball team at UBC. I was so shocked. I took the job because I needed the money, and it was definitely a place where I learned how to coach.

“I never thought that I’d continue coaching because I realized that coaching was a very complex job. I realized very early in my career that coaching wasn’t just preparing practices and doing drills for skills, and strategy and technical aspects of the game, but more importantly at that level, it was about being a mentor and being a teacher – being a psychologist, an advisor, and in some ways being a parent. I remember a particular situation when I was about 23, 24 years old and coaching the UBC team, and a young woman came to me and started to cry because her boyfriend had left her, and I was 23 years old and I thought ‘what am I doing here, I didn’t sign up for this kind of work.’ And I thought, ‘you know I’ve got to be really careful about what I say here because I could do some damage.’ So it was those kinds of situations that made me realize how important coaching was. What attracted me to coaching wasn’t simply about winning – yeah, it’s great to win and all that – but it was definitely challenging to mold young minds to try to help young people become good citizens.

“As I look back now on all these years of coaching, I find that the satisfaction that I received wasn’t only about succeeding on the court, as important if not more so it was about the opportunity to build relationships and friendships. There are situations that I encounter every day where I meet up with people who used to play for me, and what I get the satisfaction from is when I get that warm handshake or that embrace. And it means the world to me, because it tells me that I’ve done something good – I’ve provided them with opportunities that they appreciate, I’ve been a good mentor to them, and to me that is the most important aspect of coaching.”

Doug Abercrombie

Williams: “Doug coached the Capilano Blues for 16 very successful years. When Doug first arrived on campus in 1995, he inherited a team that only had three returning players. For him, this wasn’t a problem. He brought in a new group of high school grads that he knew from the provincial all-star program, and he brought them into the Blues family. This group of athletes went on the win the national title that year in Medicine Hat, and Doug then took those girls and his new recruits on to win in ’96, ’98, 2000, and 2001 – five incredible national championships for the women’s team.

“One of Abercrombie’s favourite sayings was ‘money in the bank.’ Every time he made the girls run at the end of practice, when they were dog tired he’d say ‘it’s money in the bank for nationals.’ The girls believed in him so much and he was so inspirational to them, that they really wanted to work hard for him and to win – and so they did.

“I personally used to laugh when at our coaches meetings, the coaches would work out practice times and the volleyball and basketball coaches would argue over practice time in the gym and how late some of the practices would be. Doug, very quietly, would sit there and look at them and eventually say ‘try practicing in the cold and the rain’ – and if anyone would argue, all he would do is say is ‘it builds character and winners’ and then take his two national championship rings, clink them together, and then say ‘I’ve got three more at home.’ There were no further arguments.”

Abercrombie: “I once had a parent say to me ‘I understand why you coach.’ And I thought, ‘oh God – out in the rain, putting up nets, taping 16 ankles before practice, there an hour before everybody, there an hour after everybody.’ And he said to me, ‘when my son does something really well, like gets a pass and turns and scores a goal, I get a nice warm feeling right through here. You get that opportunity 18 times, because they’re all your kids.’

“And he was right, I did. And there are four young ladies over there who represent all the players who ever played for me, and on behalf of all those players that gave me that nice warm feeling, thank you very much.”

Melissa Artuso

Williams: “Melissa comes from a family of soccer excellence. She is one of three Artuso siblings who starred for the Blues – Diana and Michelle the others. The Artusos were instrumental in the championships run for the Blues in the mid-90s to the early 2000s.

“When arriving at Capilano College at those days in 1994, she stepped out on the soccer field and was seen as quiet and unassuming. She quietly went about her job, but soon teams found her to be an intimidating force. She quickly made her mark on the field, and in the province as one of the best players ever. She earned her way to becoming the team’s leader, as she demonstrated a fantastic work rate, and leading by example the team gelled and went on to win two national championships during her career.

“Melissa was the most committed and dedicated team member of the Blues; her teammates all loved her and wanted to play with her. She inspired those around her to step up and commit to win. As a true testament to her character, Melissa won the individual Fair Play Award at the 1995 National Championships. Her attributes were her leadership, her confidence, her respect for her team members, her fairness, and her integrity. These attributes have made her successful in her career today in the health care field.”

Artuso: “I’m not sure how everyone felt when they got that call, but I heard the voicemail message from [CCAA Executive Director] Sandra Murray-McDonell on a Friday, and had all weekend to wonder why they were trying to contact me. I thought perhaps there could’ve been a reunion or something, because I had no idea what they would’ve wanted after 20 years. When she told me that I was being inducted into the Hall of Fame, it was a complete shock, but I was very excited. As soon as we finished talking, I was on the computer Googling everything about it. It was such an honour to be recognized after all these years.

“I’ve got two boys at home who were sad that they couldn’t make it tonight, but they were excited for me and were telling me that they were going to work hard and that they want to be in the Hall of Fame as well.

“I have so many fond memories of my three years at Cap College. From amazing, talented teammates that I played with, to great coaches who guided me – one of them being Doug Abercrombie who is deservedly being recognized tonight as a coach. To this day, I remember him being on the sideline, telling us to ‘Kiss It’ – which is an acronym for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid.’ He really knew how to bring out the best in all of his players individually, which is why under his reign we won 2 national championships back-to-back. One time was the infamous Medicine Hat nationals, where an unexpected snow storm hit the night before. But kudos to Medicine Hat, who pulled through with beautifully plowed fields, and heaters and hot chocolate for the athletes. The second year of nationals was in Ontario, and as Milt mentioned it was the only year that the men’s and women’s teams at Cap College won together. So you could only imagine what the plane ride home looked like there. I entered Cap College with no expectations, and left with life-long memories and experiences that I share with friends and family.”