At first, Chris Voth didn’t believe it when his agent said there was a professional volleyball team in Switzerland that wanted to interview him for an assistant coaching role. The former Canadian national team member was sent home from his club in the Netherlands due to work permit issues, and in limbo regarding his status for the next season.
It was hard to fathom there could be positive news. But later that day, Voth got on the phone with his perspective new team. Shortly thereafter, he signed a contract without even looking at it.
He arrived in Switzerland in August. Now, he’s a champion.
“The team has been so much fun,” he said. “I have a great relationship with all of the players. The other coaches, I’ve learned so much from them. The team, as an organization, is so friendly, they’re so organized. Normally, I would have to play on a lot of the lower-teams when I was playing. Now, this is like a real team.”
Indeed it is. Lindaren Volley Amriswil is one of the top volleyball clubs in Switzerland, and just won the Swiss Cup Championship. The tournament includes all of the pro teams in the country.
Based in a small village bordering Germany, Amriswil, the team feeds off the widespread support it receives across the town of 11,000 people. Every local business is a sponsor, and everyone shows up for the big games. Voth has already re-signed for next season.
“I really like having a relationship with the players and getting to work with them and helping them along,” Voth said. “We have people who are 19 [years old] all the way to 33. It’s a cool dynamic where some people are still learning, and some people are veterans.”
The former volleyball standout fell into coaching. Voth publicly came out as gay in 2014 when he was a member of Canada’s national team, becoming the first active out gay national team athlete. But three years later, he said his sexuality cost him a job overseas with a European pro league.
The rejection was confounding, especially since Voth’s teammates embraced him. He spent the next two years playing in Finland and the Czech Republic before injuries forced him to retire.
That’s when he wound up back in his hometown in Manitoba, Canada, with plans to finish his degree. Then his college team asked him to coach. Just like that, Voth was back in the game. He also took a coaching job with Volleyball Canada.
“I was honored to be there as a player,” he said. “When I finally got the call to be there as a coach, it was awesome.”
As an out gay coach, Voth enjoys educating his players about LGBTQ issues when they arise, and is on the lookout for young gay players to mentor. When Voth came out, there were a dearth of out gay role models in international volleyball. He wants to be what he lacked.
Providing mentorship is just as rewarding as taking home a championship.
“I want to promote more gay players being able to play, so whether it’s giving advice on the court, giving advice off the court, or trying to open a door for them, I’ll do whatever I can,” he said.