Two Brothers Who Walked On
Rarely does it happen that a walk-on ends up with a storied five-year collegiate career, even more rare when it happens with two brothers on the same team.
That’s the case for Gabriel and Anthony Jacques, who would both leave their own legacy on the men’s volleyball program at l’Université Sainte-Anne.
Shortly after the boys were born in Chicoutimi, Québec, the Jacques family moved to Trenton, ON due to a military posting. In 2007, another relocation meant the family would be packing their bags for Greenwood, NS.
‘’We are a military family,’’ explains Gabriel. ‘’We were used to moving around but didn’t really know what to expect when moving to Greenwood.’’ At the time the Jacques family had no idea just how impactful the move would be, both for themselves and the community receiving them.
While the brothers thrived in different sports growing up – track and field, hockey, soccer and badminton – the explosive genes that later helped shape their volleyball careers were passed down from their parents. Their father Dany was an avid runner and their mother Nancy, a figure skating and track & field standout. Growing up in a military setting surrounded by sports shaped the combative spirit of the brothers and taught them that perseverance and hard work can make all the difference.
The eldest brother, Gabriel, was invited to try-out for the Dragons volleyball team his first year in 2012. Arriving at Sainte-Anne, he quickly realized that at 5’6 he had to rely on his smarts and explosiveness if he wanted to succeed as an outside hitter. While his stats were respectable on the court, it is his impact on campus and in the community that deserves attention. While completing his Bachelor of Education, Gabriel also took on the role of RA.
‘’Attentive, welcoming and always ready to go the extra mile to help the students in his residence or others,’’ explains Sébastien Dol, Director of Student Life at l’Université Sainte-Anne. ‘’We knew when we approached him to be an RA he would be bringing on leadership attributes that come from being an athlete in a team sport, however I would say he surpassed all of our expectations.’’
Those leadership skills would have the chance to foster and grow once Gabriel graduated and agreed to stay with the program as an assistant coach. Since 2017, he has held that position with the men’s team, helped with the women’s volleyball program and with the South West Fusion U18 girls’ team. If coaching seems natural to the high school teacher at l’École Secondaire de Par-En-Bas, it may just be an attribute that comes from being an older brother.
Arriving as a walk-on for the 2015-16 season, younger brother Anthony aspired of following in his brother’s footsteps.
‘’I chose Sainte-Anne because of my brother and the heartwarming and inviting atmosphere that emanates from the university and surrounding community,’’ explains Anthony.
Despite breaking his arm playing hockey in his grade 12 year, he made the team. Further health struggles would delay the start of his collegiate career, as an appendicitis kept him out of the tip-off tournament and first game of the season.
‘’Those setbacks would be difficult to overcome for a rookie,’’ explains current Head Coach Jason Melanson. ‘’Instead of being down on himself, Anthony used it to fuel and shape his work ethic with Gabriel by his side and is a clear indication of what happens when athletes commit to taking care of their bodies.’’
Since his first season with the Dragons, Anthony has led the team in just about every offensive statistic. After his fourth year of eligibility, he was named to the ACAA First-Team All-Star. Now in his fifth and final year, he is poised to leave it all on the court and make Dragons volleyball relevant again. Through the first four games of the season, he leads the league with 3.33 kills per set while holding the third best hitting percentage. When asked about life after Dragons volleyball, ‘’Ask me after the season is over,’’ the business student jokingly responded.
Both brothers have had different impacts on the Dragons volleyball programs and community, but it is clear moving to Nova Scotia has shaped their professional and personal lives.
‘’Nova Scotia is home,’’ points out the pair.