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All in the family: Klumper parents, kids have the run of the basketball court at Westbrook-Walnut Grove

Girls basketball is a Klumper family affair at Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School.

020321 N DG Westbrook girls basketball coach Dan Klumper daughters, Isabel (0n left) and Olivia S1.jpg
Westbrook girls basketball coach Dan Klumper and his two daughters, Isabel (0n left) and Olivia, who play on the team. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WESTBROOK -- Girls basketball is a Klumper family affair at Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School.

Dan, a 2001 Worthington High School graduate, is the head coach. His wife Abby, formerly Abby LeBoutillier and a 2000 W-WG grad, is the assistant coach. Their two older daughters, Olivia, a senior, and Isabel, a freshman, are members of the varsity team. Even the first-grader, Hazel, gets into the act as the team’s ball girl.

“She mainly chases the balls down in the pre-game warmup and puts them in the rack, then shovels in the candy during games because we’re not able to control her whatsoever,” Dan said.

Dan was hired last March to teach social studies and take over the girls hoops program. He needed an assistant, but looked at “every other possibility” besides his wife, recalled Abby, until W-WG athletic director Leo Theisen suggested the best option might be right under his nose.

“At first we just started calling her ‘Team Mom.’ But dad didn’t like that,” said Olivia.

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Olivia, a transfer from Brandon, S.D., where the Klumpers lived until W-WG lured them away, is a 5-10 forward who has taken on a leadership role with the Chargers. Isabel is a 5-7 guard and steady ball handler.

It’s often difficult to sell a move to a high school kid, but the Klumper girls took it in stride.

“I just figured there’s nothing more for me here (in Brandon). I’m open to new experiences, I’m open to change. Here, I got to meet a bunch of new people … I really wanted to play basketball with my sister, too,” said Olivia.

Recalled Isabel: “I eventually came around, and I was like, ‘Well, we’ll try it.’”

Today, they’re glad they did. The girls have fully bought into their father’s plan to improve the trajectory of the Westbrook-Walnut Grove girls basketball program, which for the previous five seasons had compiled records of 6-17, 4-21, 4-21, 5-18 and 3-19.

The Chargers opened 2021 by winning three of their first four games, and though no one will call the team a juggernaut, the new head coach has a long-term plan.

“I think a huge part of that whole formula is to develop the youth program,” Dan said. “We have to get girls out when they’re young and keep them going.”

One important way to get young athletes ready for varsity basketball is to provide early instruction on techniques girls can bring with them later. And using similar basketball terminology helps make for smoother transitions.

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Dan, who was a key player on Coach Ron Vorwald’s WHS boys basketball team in his high school days, said this year’s W-WG girls team doesn’t shy away from a challenge.

“We have a team that is athletic and competitive, and they just really have a strong desire to get better as a basketball team and play together as a unit,” he said. “I like to teach the kind of basketball that Coach Vorwald used to teach me, high-intensity man-to-man defense. And just everything comes out of that side of the court.”

A place for everybody

Abby first met Dan while she played women’s basketball at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington, and now she sees herself as Dan’s basketball enabler -- usually.

“I know my role. I try to give suggestions. We’ve had a couple of arguments about zone defense. He hates zone defense,” Abby said. “And I think it’s a tool and an instrument that can be used on occasion.”

Abby, daughter of long-time Westbrook-Walnut Grove coach Steve LeBoutiller, has also become the school’s head track coach now that Steve finally retired.

“I didn’t think we would ever live here,” she admits.

But Steve told her and Dan that there were openings at the school. Dan, an Augustana College grad, had been working as an education instructor for Dakota State University after having taught nine years at Brandon and one year at Sioux Falls. Abby told her father that moving to the Westbrook area probably wouldn’t work out, in part because she didn’t know if Olivia would want to move for her senior year of high school.

But that wasn’t a problem. In fact small-town living has become quite agreeable to Olivia, who said it’s easier to forge friendships now. Besides, back in Brandon, she and “Izzy” probably wouldn’t have been able to play together.

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And Dan was ready to get back into the K-12 teaching world.

He admits that he’s a tough coach. “I only know one way to get better, and that’s through effort and pain,” he said.

Working to improve

Shortly after the Klumpers hit town, the COVID-19 pandemic became serious. But that just meant that Olivia and Isabel stuck close to home, where they were able to work on their basketball skills together.

“We kept a dribble log every day. (Dad) would give us the option of three different dribble workouts.”

“And we’d run a mile outside (every day),” added Isabel.

“Our parents always really encouraged us to play sports at an early age. In fact, my first basketball team was in kindergarten,” explained Olivia, who said her first coach in that YMCA year was her grandfather, Wayne Klumper.

Isabel started in the first grade. Her father Dan was the only coach she ever had.

“Ultimately, I’m glad he was the coach, ‘cuz he pushed me to my fullest potential, and he wasn’t afraid to hurt my feelings because I was his kid,” she said.

020321 N DG Westbrook girls basketball coach Dan Klumper daughters, Isabel (0n left) and Olivia S2.jpg
Westbrook girls basketball coach Dan Klumper watches as his two daughters, Isabel (2) and Olivia (30) run through a drill during team practice Friday afternoon. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

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