I have always enjoyed sports. As a spectator, a player, or coach. At various times throughout my career I have coached girls softball, track, boys basketball, and girls volleyball. My favorite was girls volleyball.
My first coaching assignment was for the fourth grade boys basketball program. Not awe inspiring but the kids enjoyed themselves and had fun. Wow what a learning experience. Our first and I might add our only game was with the fourth grade team from Chester grade school. Fourth grade basketball is, for the most part, a scrum of 9 kids surrounding the child with the basketball. Five kids beating on the child with the ball, and four kids trying to make a path for the player with the ball. I don't remember a whole lot about our one and only game with CGS, but I do remember the score was lopsided. CGS something, SJS ZERO. Our goal from the beginning was not to win the game, but to score. The whole game was a comedy of errors. Parents from both sides were really into it. EVERYONE was encouraging us to score. We had had some chances but now things looked bleak. With less than a minute to go, Chester had the ball at our end of the court and were threatening to score again. Then it happened. To this day I still don't know how,e but Steve Middendorf had the ball and was heading down court.. Parents were going wild. You had the sense that something BIG was going to happen. The whole gymnasium rose to their feet in anticipation. Steve got to the free throw line...tripped..and fell. You could hear the rush of air as the breath of everyone was exhaled at the same time. Disappointment fell over the gymnasium like a black cloud. However, and there is always a however in life, as he fell, Steve had thrown the ball up in the air. The ball went up and into the basket. You might have thought that we had just won the national championship. The gym erupted in yelling, screaming, clapping, cheering and shouting. Final score, Chester 21 St. John 2.
One of my favorite pictures is that of Steve , surrounded by his teammates, holding up the game ball. I had the opportunity to coach at both the grade school level as well as the high school level. As of this writing I still hold the record for the number of wins at Chester High School. Combine my high school wins with my number of wins at Saint John, I have a total of almost 500 volleyball wins.
Looking back to the early years I think of some of the innovations we brought to the game in this area. This was the beginning of the Title IX days when girls were finally getting their opportunity to play.
We were the first team grade school to move from the nine member team to the current six member team. We ran plays rather than just play "jungle ball” as I called it. We put names on the backs of uniforms, and warmed up to a variety of music including the favorite warm up for many teams “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters.
People might possibly say I was intense as a coach.The girls that played for me during those years knew my passion for the game and the intensity with which I coached them. I can't tell you the number of clipboards that were broken at practices as well as the number of pipes broken and the number of times that heels came off my shoes. I was referred to as the "Bobby Knight "of girls volleyball.
Depending on the individuals that made up the different teams over the years they would react differently to my coaching style. Some groups responded more to the "Softhearted Dad" approach while others responded better to my raising my voice at them.
One of my early recollections was the first volleyball conference championship that we won against our city rivals, the Saint Mary Hawks.
We were behind in the first game by quite a bit I asked the girls what the problem was they responded by saying "you need to yell at us.“ Tha,t was all I needed to hear. That was the game in which I broke my clipboard, my pipe, and tore the heel off one of my boots. They came back and won the first game. In the second game wasn't even close. That team needed intensity. Other teams I tried that approach and all they did was get emotional.
Well each team has its up and downs, One of our coaches and a former player lost her battle with cancer. She was loved and respected by the girls. The first year after her death, in her honor, I renamed the Saint John Invitational Volleyball Tournament . It became The Vicki Jany Memorial Tournament.
During my years as AD, and even afterwards, there was a subject that caused more friction, was more devisive than any other activity, that activity is known as cheerleading.
Cheerleading, as I saw it was simply an opportunity for girls to stand around at a ballgame and preen. There was always something happenning that resulted in more drama thanwas needed. There was controversy over uniforms, length of skirts, color of uniforms, even how cheerleaders were selected. We ran the gamut on that one.
Cheerleaders were selected by the students, by the staff, by a combination of student/staff. Cheerleaders from other schools were asked to judge and select cheerleaders. We even let anyone who wanted to be one, be a cheerleader – utter chaos. We actually had more cheerleaders than players that year.
For one or two years even had a separate squad for girls who wanted to cheer but didn't make the cheerleading squad. This was the Dance squad. For my money they were actually better than the cheerleaders that year.
But God has a sense of humor because for the last three years my grand daughter has been on the cheerleading squad at the Lutheran High School South. Ironic isn't it.