WHS BOYS' BASKETBALL: Vorwald father-son duo share special bond

WORTHINGTON -- They rarely will admit it, but there is nothing better for a son than to look into the stands and see his father watching him do something he loves. Whether a court, pool, field, diamond or rink, in rain, sleet, snow or hail, at a ...

WHS's Ron and Jon Vorwald
AARON HAGE/DAILY GLOBE WHS's Jon Vorwald (right) hugs his dad and Worthington boys' basketball coach Ron Vorwald after the Trojans clinched a Section 3AA championship with a win over Redwood Valley Thursday at SMSU in Marshall.

WORTHINGTON -- They rarely will admit it, but there is nothing better for a son than to look into the stands and see his father watching him do something he loves. Whether a court, pool, field, diamond or rink, in rain, sleet, snow or hail, at a soccer, swimming, tennis, football or basketball game, it's always better when dad is there.

It may be blasphemy in the teenage world to want a parent anywhere within 500 feet, but there's just something about dad meeting the eyes of his son and smiling whether he hits a walkoff single to win a baseball game, air balls his ninth shot of a basketball game or even keeps the bench nice and warm.

The look of pure joy and pride in the eyes of Worthington coach Ron Vorwald when he hugged his son Jon after the Trojans clinched a state tournament berth with a 64-43 win over Redwood Valley Thursday in the section championship would convey dads enjoy the feeling too.

For Worthington's starting guard Jon Vorwald, the look from his father while he plays basketball isn't always a smiling one. Sometimes the look results in him getting his behind banished to the bench. That's what happens when your dad is in his 23rd year coaching your high school team.

Although the look isn't always a positive one, Jon could not imagine playing for anyone else and, more importantly, heading to the state tournament Wednesday with anyone better than his dad.


"He's been my coach all the way up, since we were really little," Jon said. "It's been fun having him as my coach all the way.

"Having the goal to go to state, since we were really little, and doing it with my dad made getting to state that much more special."

Put me in, coach

This is not Ron's first go-around coaching his son in a Trojans' uniform. He coached his eldest son Andy for two years, his middle son Mike for four years and is in his second year coaching Jon with one year left.

Ron knows how to handle coaching a son.

"You got to be very professional," Ron said. "You have to put the father-son relationship away, as difficult as that is.

"It's difficult, but you have to treat them all the same regardless if they're your son or not. If they aren't playing well, they don't play. I've always believed my sons are going to earn their playing time. They aren't entitled to anything."

It isn't all smiles having dad at the helm of a team. Having the same last name can be a nice target on one's back for parents looking for a reason as to why their child isn't starting.


"It's hard," Jon said. "I try to put all that negative talk away and work as hard as I can to earn my way.

"Nothing is given to me , even though it's sometimes what people think. It's not given to me because of my last name."

More importantly than what parents think is what the team thinks. The Trojans believe Jon has earned his minutes, rather than received them.

"People outside the gym don't know how hard Jon works," WHS shooting guard Lucas Henning said, "He puts in his time."

At the same time, it's pretty hard not to deliver the patented teenage backtalk with dad calling plays.

"There's those times where you want to talk back to him because he's your dad, but at the same time he's your coach and you have to hold yourself back," Jon said.

Henning has witnessed a few Vorwald arguments the last two basketball seasons.

"Jon likes to argue with him, but he understands that he is still the coach and usually the coach is right," Henning said.


Winning cures any type of speculation around who should be playing. The Jon and Ron Vorwald duo have gone 42-11 the last two seasons, including 21-6 this season with Jon as a starter and the Trojans first trip to the state tournament, since the Andy and Ron Vorwald duo went in 1998.

What about mom?

One place where there is limited speculation or talk about basketball is at the Vorwald home where Kris, Jon's mom, Ron's wife and the head coach of the house, according to Ron, calls the plays.

Kris will admit there are some perks to having a son and husband on the same squad.

"It's nice they are the same schedule, so it's easy to make supper," Kris said.

Jon and Ron try their best to find another topic besides basketball for dinner conversation.

"After a loss, we'll say a couple things about it at home, but we usually try to put that stuff behind us," Jon said. "We try not to take that stuff home."

"Any dad that has coached his son will tell you that you have to leave it on the court," Ron said.


Kris enjoys a quiet home, but sometimes it comes at a rough cost.

"It's usually pretty quiet after a loss," Kris said. "They are very good at realizing that it is just a game and there are a lot more serious things in life."

Even more difficult for Kris is actually being at the basketball games.

"I usually try to sit off by myself," Kris said. "I really don't want to hear what parents are saying about the coach."

Watching success makes it all worth it for the Vorwalds' No. 1 fan.

"It was pretty exciting when they clinched state," Kris said. "I knew we'd have a happy house."

Good times, bad times

Worthington has never won a state championship in boys' basketball, so at some point in his 22 seasons Ron Vorwald has had to act as a coach and a father to a group of young men whose seasons -- and in some cases basketball careers -- have come to an end.


"You just try to get through the bad times," Ron said. "You try to come to an understanding and be patient. It's not always easy."

Like any coach, Ron could recollect a tough loss without any hesitation.

"Mikey's team got to the section finals and we lost to Mankato West," Ron said. "I had coached his group since third or fourth grade and they were a great group.

"You coach these kids up and you develop a bond, so it's tough when they lose."

Like any father, Ron found a positive side to it all.

"You relish the good times," Ron said. "I've certainly had many good times coaching my sons. Moments like Jon, Mikey, Andy and I've had are those special moments you share with your kids."

Then, of course, there's the obvious upside to it all.

"The best part about coaching your son is that if you have to have a discussion with him you don't have to go very far to find him," Ron said.


Leave it to mom to sum it all up.

"The game of basketball gives kids lifelong friends and lessons," Kris said. "Through all the traveling team tournaments, hotels and restaurants, you form a bond with the kids and their parents.

"I know it's more than a just a game to Ron. It's about teaching kids about life."

Ron may just have one more year coaching a Vorwald, but he's sure to gain a few more sons.

"There are so many former players who will call Ron or come over or send him letters telling him how some of the things he would say or do taught them lessons for life," Kris said. "We having a growing family with each team."

Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy can be reached at 376-7328.

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