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Hanson resigns as Willmar coach

Mary Hanson

WILLMAR -- She didn't want any attention after announcing her resignation as coach on Wednesday after 20 seasons. She wanted to just ride off into the sunset quietly, rather than rehash an emotional decision. But it's hard to just fade away when you've won over 300 games and been a big part of the volleyball success at Willmar.

"It's time for me to be a mom," said Mary Hanson, who took over as head volleyball coach at Willmar in 1989. "I need to have time to watch (daughter) Kelsey play her final two seasons at Valley City. I've missed so much already that if I don't go now, I will miss it all and we can't get time back."

Hanson is a graduate of Willmar High School and played volleyball under Deb Bahe. When Bahe succumbed to cancer, Hanson took over. She went 329-199-1 as a coach, including four Central Lakes Conference titles.

Like trying to get around a slow driver in front of you, but no room to pass, Willmar always seemed stuck behind perennial state powers in both the Central Lakes Conference and sections.

Alexandria had a firm stranglehold on the CLC race each year and then would play in numerous state tournaments. Willmar also never reached the state tournament; always having roadblocks such as state powers Chaska or Marshall in the way at section.

But Hanson's teams were competitive every year. She had only five losing seasons in her tenure and won over 20 matches in a season five times. She has coached numerous outstanding players and has countless memories.

Her most enjoyable part about coaching?

"Too numerous to mention," she insists, then proceeds to name some of them. "Working with wonderful young women who put everything they had into a sport. They were my extended family in the fall. Teaching the game I love. Meeting amazing people. My coaching staff, parents, opposing coaches, officials. Getting an opportunity to coach my daughter and have my son (Travis) help. And walking into the first day of practice, alone, into a dark gym and waiting for the lights to come on. It always gave me a thrill. I could go on and on."

But she admits there are also the aspects of coaching she won't miss, such as stress, fundraising and losing.

"I always tried to tell the girls it's how you play, not the record," she said. "But I'm a horrible loser."

Hanson wants to stay involved in the Willmar volleyball system in some capacity.