When Carol Howe-Veenstra was hired to coach volleyball and softball at the College of St. Benedict in 1985 the Blazers' athletic department consisted of seven sports.
After her first year at St. Benedict, the Crosby-Ironton High School graduate discontinued coaching softball while adding the responsibilities of athletic director. She has continued to coach volleyball at the all-female college in St. Joseph, which has added five sports since she became athletic director.
The demand that both positions require persuaded Howe-Veenstra to resign her volleyball position following this past season.
"Several years ago I questioned the challenge of balancing my workload and doing justice to my staff, having the kind of time you need to spend recruiting to be one of the top teams in the conference all the time and to be in the postseason playoffs, " Howe-Veenstra said.
The workload apparently hasn't affected Howe-Veenstra as she has coached the Blazers' volleyball program to prominence. In her tenure the Blazers were 165-33 (.833) in conference play, 342-142 (.707) overall. They qualified for the NCAA postseason 11 times, including a trip to the Final Four in 1990.
This fall the Blazers went 11-3 in the conference, 24-8 overall, but missed the postseason. While coaching this fall Howe-Veenstra had to hire a volleyball successor and a nordic skiing coach for a sport the Blazers started this school year.
"I was trying to coach, hire and supervise," said Howe-Veenstra, noting that five new positions were filled this fall.
"That's why it's time for a change," she said. "I spent less time hiring the first 10 years."
Howe-Veenstra has been a women's athletics pioneer. She graduated from C-I in 1971, playing volleyball and basketball for physical education teacher Virginia Howe (no relation) in the Girls Athletics Association. Howe-Veenstra competed in an era when girls' athletics had yet to be included under the umbrella of the Minnesota State High School League.
"My high school physical education teacher was very progressive," said Howe-Veenstra, whose parents, Norman and Marianne, live in Deerwood. "My junior and senior years we competed in basketball and volleyball with other communities."
Following high school Howe-Veenstra attended Brainerd Junior College for two years, where she played volleyball, basketball and softball for Darlene Palmer.
"My favorite was track," Howe-Veenstra said, "but they didn't have track."
Howe-Veenstra went on to attend Moorhead State where she competed in volleyball, basketball and track.
"In the fall of my senior year I student-taught so I had to decide which quarter to step out of my activities," Howe-Veenstra said. "I took the fall term. It was a fabulous experience. That's why I fell in love with volleyball.
"I student-taught at Moorhead High School and our (volleyball) team was strong. We went to the very first state tournament. It was at Anoka High School, there was only one class and we finished third."
Following college graduation Howe-Veenstra was hired at St. Cloud Tech where she spent 10 years, coaching the Tigers to four state volleyball tournaments and seven region finals.
"When I interviewed they were looking for someone to lead track and then pick either volleyball or basketball," Howe-Veenstra said. "I chose volleyball because it was such a great experience. The (basketball and track seasons) would have been overlapping."
Concentrating on the athletic director position will permit Howe-Veenstra to more quality time with her husband, Steve, the head boys' basketball coach at St. Cloud Tech, and their 11-year-old son, Ryan.
"I have often felt sorry for our son," Howe-Veenstra said. "Our home atmosphere can often be dictated by wins and losses. It can be a little quiet around here.
"Ryan has been able to travel to Colorado, St. Louis and the Bahamas. He has had an opportunity to see the other side of sports. He has gotten to look at athletes as people. I think he appreciates that side of it. He also understands the time commitment. It can be a struggle.
"I'm not tired of coaching. I'm just ready for a little different pace, the opportunity to do some things I haven't been able to do with the time commitment, both professionally and personally."
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