PREP VOLLEYBALL: A Hall of Fame career

WINDOM -- Being a Hall of Fame coach was never a goal for Ron Wendorff. But whether it was or not, the Windom head volleyball coach is the newest member of the Minnesota State High School Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. "I never drea...

Ron Wendorff
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Windom head coach Ron Wendorff speaks to his Eagles players during a timeout in this photo taken earlier this season.

WINDOM -- Being a Hall of Fame coach was never a goal for Ron Wendorff.

But whether it was or not, the Windom head volleyball coach is the newest member of the Minnesota State High School Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

"I never dreamt that I'd be a Hall of Fame coach," Wendorff said. "Never, ever dreamt it until I got that phone call about a week and a half ago that said I was being inducted. That's something you don't even dream about."

Wendorff was honored at the state volleyball tournament banquet last week.

"It's a very humbling honor," he said. "It's an honor that you don't ever think about. Who would think about being put into a Hall of Fame, until they tell you one day that you're going to be inducted in about a week and a half? It came as a complete surprise and a complete shock. I guess I knew I had been nominated because they had to get some information, primarily from my wife. But she couldn't come up with all the things, so she had to give it away a little bit that I was going to be nominated."


Even though he knew he was nominated, it was still a surprise when he got the phone call.

"I was so shocked that I almost fell over to be honest with you," Wendorff said. "I never expected that, I just never did. It's a great honor and I'm very humbled by it and I'm very appreciative of it. It's just something, that as a coach, you don't even really think about. You have goals, you want to win state titles. I'd like to win another one. Next year, I want to win the state title. To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, it just happened, I guess."

At the beginning of his career, Wendorff was planning on becoming a successful basketball coach.

After graduating from Fulda High School, he went to play basketball at Southwest State in Marshall, where he enjoyed a standout career.

"I had taken some coaching volleyball classes in college and I also took officiating volleyball," Wendorff said. "With those classes, you got to play a lot. I realized I liked playing the sport. In the fall, we played it a lot, it was good conditioning for basketball. You worked a lot of muscle groups, so it was really good. We actually got a chance to play against the college girls once in a while. I learned that I loved to play it."

He then found a job at Medford, where he started as a boys' basketball coach. Soon, volleyball coaching positions opened.

"I went to teach in Medford and I was the assistant basketball coach with Franz Boelter," Wendorff said. "Neither one of us were volleyball coaches at the time and they needed some volleyball coaches, so he took the B-squad job and I took the seventh and eighth grade job."

Little did they know, it would be the start of two great careers.


"I think if you would have asked either one of us, first of all, if we ever would have envisioned being volleyball coaches for as long as we have, being in the Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame, winning state championships and things like that, we would have told you that you were out of your mind," said Boelter, who has led Bethlehem Academy to three state titles and four runner-up finishes. "It just kind of goes to show, if you have a passion for something and if you're doing it for the right reasons, you have a great chance for some good things to happen."

The two left Medford as Boelter -- who was inducted into the HOF three years ago -- went to BA and Wendorff went to Windom.

In three stints, Wendorff has been the head coach for 19 seasons, amassing a career record of 394-137-1. He has coached four teams to the state tournament, including two runner-up finishes and a state title.

Wendorff spent a brief time as an assistant at Kenyon-Wanamingo, where he coached with current Jackson County Central coach Teresa VanEpps.

"When he was at Kenyon-Wanamingo, I was just starting out in coaching," Van Epps said. "While at Kenyon-Wanamingo, this is what Ron told me starting out as a coach, he said, 'Set your expectations high for your kids and hold them to those expectations, they will meet them.' That was one of the first pieces of coaching advice Ron gave me 10 years ago."

Wendorff returned and guided Windom to the state finals in both 2007 and 2008. Each time, Wendorff and the Eagles faced off against Boelter and the Cardinals.

"It was strange and it was fun," Boelter said. "Periodically, you kind of look down to the other end of the floor and see what the other guy is doing. I'm glad we were both able to win one. We went against each other two years in a row and those are the only times that we've coached against each other. To get to do it in the state championship match, it's kind of one of those deals where you feel like you can't come out the loser.

"You always want to be the winner, but if you're not, you're going to feel pretty good for the other guy, too."


Boelter won the first, but Wendorff got the second, for his only state title.

Two years later, Boelter helped nominate the Windom coach into the HOF.

"It was very, very easy to recommend him," said Boelter, who added that both were influenced by former Windom coach Jack Kelly. "We were delighted to get him in. People like Ron, it's so easy to write recommendations for. You kind of know, in situations like his, once he has been nominated, that his chances of getting in are excellent. He's very, very deserving. He's one of the best in the state, not just as a coach, but as a person. I think that his nomination was an easy sell."

Boelter, Marshall head coach Dan Westby and former Windom head coach Rob Scripture nominated Wendorff.

"He couldn't be more deserving," Boelter said. "We're proud to call him a colleague and I'm also proud to call him a good friend.

"We've been very good friends for 33 years now. I think we have a lot of respect for each other and we've been able to help each other out a lot. We've learned a great deal from each other and it's very rewarding to see him get this recognition."

Wendorff was nominated the first time he was on the ballot.

"It's a great award for their school and their program and our conference," Westby said. "The thing is, he went in on the first ballot. There's people on that ballot who have been on there for 10 years. That says a lot about him."


While others are quick to compliment Wendorff, he's just as quick to pass it to others, including long-time assistant coach Gene Lovell.

"He's my right-hand man," Wendorff said of Lovell. "I really treasure the time he's put in. He's volunteered a lot of time to work with our kids."

This season, Wendorff also added Crystal Fast, who played on Windom's 2000 runner-up team, as an assistant coach.

"There's not a more deserving person, I believe, for that award," Fast said. "After all the success he's had, he deserves it. I'm just very fortunate to have played for him, and now I'm coaching with him. You can't beat that. I'm glad I got the opportunity to come back and coach with him again."

Fast has taken what she learned from Wendorff and incorporated it into her own coaching style.

"He's a very intense coach, and that intensity is passion," Fast said. "Not only for the team and passion for the game, but I'll always remember how much he cared about us as people. For me, he always made me feel, not only am I a setter on his volleyball team, but he cares about what's going on off the court also."

Windom senior Courtney Ysker, who was recently named the Class A player of the year, agrees.

"I loved playing for Mr. Wendorff," Ysker said. "I wish I could play with him for another four years. Obviously, that can't happen. He taught me well and hopefully I can follow up with him in the college level.


"He made me who I am today, as a volleyball player and off the court."

Through it all, the players are the reason why Wendorff enjoys coaching.

"I like the coaching part of it, working with the kids and seeing them grow," Wendorff said. "And after they graduate, coming back and coming to our matches and just swinging by and saying, 'Hi.' That means a lot to me and that's why I do this job."

Wendorff coaching
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Windom's Ron Wendorff talks with his players on the court.

What To Read Next
Get Local