The Pottles’ story is a Thompson Rivers University marketer’s dream — big-city Ontario family finds bliss in Kamloops.
Avery Pottle and Sarah Dobinson became close friends while playing for the Durham Rebels, a club volleyball team in Whitby, Ont.
WolfPack women’s volleyball head coach Chad Grimm recruited Dobinson in 2015 and she helped convince her friend, Avery, to move to the River City in time for the 2016-2017 campaign.
The movie scenario — best friends forever come of age as sorority sisters before taking the world by storm — did not come to fruition, as Dobinson left the WolfPack prior to the 2017-2018 season.
Avery stayed, smitten with teammates and the city, and was soon joined by familiar company.
Pottle’s father, Steve, was happy living in Uxbridge with wife, Michelle, and working in risk management for Toronto’s York University, with which he had been employed for more than 15 years.
The Pottles emailed TRU Sports Information Officer Larry Read one evening to thank him for putting on a WolfPack webcast.
Read passed on the message to Matt Milovick, vice-president of administration and finance for TRU.
“Matt saw the surname, Pottle, and thought, I know a Pottle,” Steve said. “He reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, just throwing it out there — have you thought about coming out here and working as our risk manager?”
Milovick, who worked at York for about 10 years, became acquainted with Steve during their overlapping time at Canada’s third-largest university.
“I didn’t know TRU existed before Avery was recruited,” Steve said. “The concept of a change wasn’t even in my head, but then we started to think about it.”
Steve pondered a new professional challenge, began picturing mountain views from a growing campus and envisioned cutting his daily commute time to 20 minutes from about three hours.
He agreed to visit Kamloops for an interview, but decided to hide from his daughter the real reason for his trip.
“He’s like, ‘I’m doing a conference or a presentation,’ but he was actually doing a job interview,” Avery said. “Then he was like, ‘I’m moving here in the summer.’
“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’”
Milovick, who left York in 2005, hired Steve in April to be TRU’s director of risk management.
“Here we are, 20 years later, and he has, in my mind, established himself at the forefront of risk management for post-secondaries,” Milovick said. “He’s a hell of a catch.”
Milovick’s catch smelled fishy to Avery. She was enjoying freedom and life on her own about 4,000 kilometres away from mom and dad.
Conversations went something like this:
“I’m not going to take over your space,” Steve said. “Your brother [Ryan] goes to York. I work at York. I never see him.
“She said, ‘Yeah, but it’s a bigger school.’
“I said, ‘Avery, I will not be hiding behind bushes and watching you.’”
Steve has kept his word. There are no bush-spying incidents to report.
It turns out Avery was gifted the best of both worlds.
“I still live with my old roommates, but now there is help with laundry, support, food … it’s awesome,” Avery said with a laugh.
Michelle joined her husband in Kamloops last summer after tying up loose ends in Ontario and works in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District library system.
Avery, like her father, knew of neither TRU nor the Tournament Capital before moving here, but has grown to love the city and her WolfPack teammates.
The Uxbridge secondary graduate is also enjoying a breakout season, playing full-time at middle after spending much of her first two campaigns positionally nomadic.
“To have that confidence from my coach makes a big difference,” Avery said.
Three of the WolfPack’s top offensive contributors from 2017-2018 did not return to the fold this season, leaving a void that has been filled by previously-less-relied-on players such as Avery.
“At times, when that kind of opportunity presents itself, it can go both ways,” Grimm said. “It can maybe be too much and they don’t succeed. But this group has been good as far as running with it and doing the best they can.”
Avery stands six feet and is often pitted against taller foils.
“I think the middle position, generally, is going a little bit more undersized in the men’s and women’s games, just because the offences are so fast,” Grimm said.
“It’s more important to be quick than big now. Of course, if you’re quick and big, it’s an advantage.”
With 92 points in 14 matches, Avery sits third in WolfPack scoring, trailing only big-gun outside hitters Olga Savenchuk (223.5 points) and Kendra Finch (163 points).
Avery had 81.5 points in 20 matches last season.
“If we’d had all the key pieces [from last season], I think we would have had a pretty superstar team,” said Avery, whose WolfPack (6-8) are tied for sixth in Canada West standings. “I think that we’ve done a lot better — not that we expected ourselves to do poorly — but we have a really strong dynamic within the group this year, more so than other years. Nobody wants to be the star.”
Steve’s work at TRU is challenging.
“My role at York was primary insurance,” he said.
“Here, I have health and safety, security, risk, insurance … it’s a much broader enterprise, which is kind of cool, stuff I would never have gotten at York. It’s just too big of a school.”
So far, he’s avoided stepping on Avery’s toes, thus avoiding jeopardizing his own health and safety.
“I still get the odd call — ‘Hey, can I come by and do laundry?’ Steve said.
“This place is awesome. Kamloops has been great.”
Watch the Pack this weekend
Two of the nation’s top-ranked teams will clash in men’s Canada West volleyball action following the conclusion of the women’s matches at the TCC on Friday and Saturday, with first serve slated for 6:45 p.m. both nights.
Mount Royal (9-3) is ranked fifth among U Sports men’s volleyball teams, while TRU (7-3) is ranked ninth.
The women get underway at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. TRU is 6-8, while Mount Royal is 7-7.