Dennis Staples

I love interviewing members of our community. Every month I get to uncover the many layers of some pretty amazing people as we chat for an hour or two and I wonder how I’ll fit it all in a two-page feature article. 9 out of ten times, I can’t! This was definitely the case with Dennis Staples. 

Dennis was born and raised in Quebec. His stepfather was in the military, so Dennis grew up as an army brat. After grade 6, their family relocated to Calgary which was a huge change for him. 

“I went from an all boys’ private school with nuns, to a public junior high school with girls, team sports and more!” he tells me, with that infectious laugh and smile.

From there, they moved to Borden, Ontario where he completed high school, after which he attended McMaster University. This is where he met his wife, Nicole. 

“Nicole was in the room across from me in residence. It was a social time, I knew I would work in business and sales so had a lot of fun,” he adds. 

Dennis’ dad had an interesting background, heavily involved in coaching sports and then starting and running a tennis program at Gray Rocks Resort in Quebec.

“He grew it from 2 to 22 courts, with 50 tennis pros in the 80s. I grew up teaching tennis there… it felt just like the resort in Dirty Dancing,” Dennis remembers. 

Sports have always been a big part of both Dennis and Nicole’s life, even into university where they played competitively. It was only natural that it would continue to be as they experienced big life changes.

In 1996, Dennis and Nic flew their mountain bikes from Toronto to Calgary for a two-week mountain bike trip in the Rockies. They rented a car, packed the bikes in the back, camped and biked everywhere between Canmore and Jasper. After that trip they decided to make a plan to get west. 

When an opportunity arose on the coast, the couple made the move to Richmond and spent weekends exploring different mountain towns in the interior. 

“Our dream was to run a B&B in the mountains, so we would travel everywhere there was a ski resort. The end of that summer, we came to Fernie. As we drove into the valley and saw the Three Sisters, we knew this was it,” Dennis says. As they drove into town they passed a Jody Gredzuk real estate sign and they wrote down her number. 

“We met up with her, described our lofty dream and stayed in touch. In 2003 we bought an acreage, but it wasn’t until the twins were born that we moved here.”

With a two-year-old and newborn twins, they decided to give Fernie a try. 

“It was hell, but it would have been hell anywhere. Nic started to make connections, I met a dad at the pool with his two-year old, and when Lucy got over colic, life changed.”

Having a background in Tech and looking to get back into work, Dennis saw an opportunity with Thomas Leggott who was running Property Guys. He offered to purchase half of his business and create a partnership, and three companies later, they’re still partners.   

As the kids started to get older, Dennis decided to get involved with their activities.

“I wanted to coach and to do whatever was needed. At the time if you wanted to play volleyball outside of school you had to travel to be part of a club. A couple of parents had started the Fernie Volleyball Club so they didn’t have to travel, there was one boys’ and one girls’ team that first year,” says Dennis, who came on board in year two as club president. 

Fernie Volleyball has become very popular. The main program is the competitive club team, which runs from January through May, after the school program ends. They also run beach volleyball in summer. 
Kids are able to play year-round which is resulting in stronger athletes. 

“It’s showing in the teams’ performances. We also don’t know if we can grow anymore! We are renting space at Frank J Mitchell as don’t have space,” Dennis tells me. They also run practices at Max Turyk, the Community Centre and at FSS. 

“Everyone is maxed at the moment,” he adds, as we go through all the clubs and organizations in need of more space. 

“We’re good, but it truly shows that Fernie has a lot of sport-minded families with kids who bike, hike, ski and swim and that makes them strong athletes who can perform in any sport. We’ve been asking if it is sustainable to grow and support more kids, or do we need to change our strategy? We’re all volunteers – can we put more time in? We have tried to do this as affordably as possible, but how do we keep it low if we’re doing more and paying staff wages?”

It’s obvious Dennis and the Fernie Volleyball Club team have been thinking a lot about their future, and that the organization and its athletes are truly important to them. The focus now is to go through a strategic process, and to create a succession plan.  

“If you want to get involved, find us on social media because we have a lot of cool updates there, with photos of smiling kids at events. If you have boys and girls in grades 4-12, it’s a great way to stay up to date on what’s happening. All of it gets pushed out from fernievolleyball.com.”

Thanks, Dennis and all of the volunteers with the Fernie Volleyball Club. We look forward to continuing to see the amazing photos, smiling faces and great results on socials, and how the club evolves moving forward. 

1. When did you first arrive in Fernie and what brought you here?
September 2009, and the mountains brought us here. 

2. Who do you remember first meeting?
It has to be Jody Gredzuk. She was our realtor.

3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie?
Oh ya, it was coming around the corner and seeing the Three Sisters and knowing we were in the Rockies now. 

4. What keeps you here?
The community, the schools, the life that our kids live. 

5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
Coaching volleyball, but of the classics here it is probably biking over skiing. 

6. What time of the year do you love most and why?
Probably the summer. I love the lakes here. We didn’t know about the lakes when we moved here and discovered Sandy Shores and were like whoa! 

7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years.
With a big new community sports centre!

8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
In the winter, I’m ready to be a retiree in the neighbourhood and have a pristine driveway. I connect so much with the old boys on 2nd. 

9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
Well most people are surprised that I have as much sport in my background and played competitive tennis in university. And I’m a pretty good golfer, too. 

10. Quote to live by: That’s not my MO, but one thing I do is come to every practice with one or two dad jokes. All season, the depth of the eye rolls is amazing. 14 year old girls – such a good mix.