PRINSBURG -- Traci Grussing, the area's most successful volleyball coach, is back after a four-year hiatus from coaching. Grussing, who guided Central Minnesota Christian to three straight state titles from 1998-2000 and a runner-up finish in 1997, agreed to return this season as co-coach with Lindsey (VanderWell) Taatjes, one of Grussing former star players.
"CMCS was looking for a varsity coach. The parents, including myself, were trying to convince Lindsey to take the job," said Grussing, who has a 382-118 record in 16-plus seasons. "She was hesitant because of minor work conflicts and because she is having a baby in October. We decided to co-coach so that practice time would be flexible for both of us."
Grussing had another reason she wanted Taatjes to agree to take the job if she assisted her.
"I wanted to be sure that (Taatjes) took the job in hopes hat she will continue after this year and coach my daughters," Grussing admitted.
When Grussing decided to step down after the 2006 season, it came as a shock to many volleyball enthusiasts. Especially, since she had been so successful.
"I was really ready for a break," she said. "No matter what a coach's philosophy is, there are always people who are not happy with it, I had a lot of support from the parents of the girls I coaches, but I was tired of criticism from other people. I also had a difficult time planning practices that were interesting to me. After 16 years, I felt like I was doing the same things every day."
Now Grussing seems to be enjoying life as a high school coach again. The Bluejays started out the season 5-0 and are currently 10-5. But just because she wasn't blowing a whistle in the CMCS gym every day doesn't mean Grussing wasn't teaching the sport.
The first year after she resigned, she gave herself a mental break, taking a vacation and enjoying the fall season outside the gym. She admits she didn't miss practices, but did miss the matches.
"I love the competition and the strategy and seeing the team progress from match to match," she said. "It was hard to go to CMCS matches and sit in the stands."
The following year, Grussing and some of her friends started a Junior Olympic team in Willmar and have been coaching that team for three years. The team qualified for the national tournament this past summer in Reno, Nev. This year, Grussing will coach an elite JO club in the Twin Cities.
For now, though, she is sharing duties with Taatjes, a 2001 graduate and four-time All-Area setter who was on all three state championship teams and then went on to enjoy a stellar four-year career with the Minnesota Gophers.
"Coaching with Lindsey is great," said Grussing. "We have the same coaching style and philosophy. It's common for us to look at the same person or play in practice, and when one of us makes a correction, it is exactly what the other one was thinking. She brings a lot of new ideas from college, but I can still see some of the basics that she learned in high school, too."
Grussing's son, Joey, is a senior at CMCS. Her daughter, Riley, 13, is the setter for the JV team. And Esther, 10, just finished her first year of JO volleyball.
"So it looks like I have at least eight more years of coaching JO," said Grussing.
Taatjes and her husband, Ted, the head boys basketball coach at CMCS, are expecting their second child at the end of October. They already have one son, Carter, who is nearly two. Lindsey is a nurse at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar and Ted farms.
Taatjes has done some coaching prior to joining CMCS. She ran a club volleyball team during college and was a graduate assistant at Augustana College after she graduated from the University of Minnesota. And she has been coaching a JO team the past two years.
"I heard encouragement from several areas to coach (at CMCS)," she said. "And I enjoyed working with the girls during club volleyball and there wasn't anyone else who wanted to or was able to coach."
As far as returning next season, Taatjes isn't sure of her decision at this time.
"I will have to see how it would work out with working and having two kids and a farmer husband," she said. "Mostly, family watches our son now when I am gone, but that may be more difficult when there are two kids."
If Lindsey proves to be the coach the school's athletic director desires, he might find himself watching both of her children while she is coaching. After all, the athletic director is her father, Daryl VanderWell.