It is assumed a program that has made six trips to nationals in the past seven seasons and taken home two titles within that span requires a lot work behind the scenes.
Most in the area know of Central Lakes College's volleyball success and the amount of time head coach Jane Peterson has put in to transform the Raiders into a national power.
But perhaps less known is the program's two important additions over the past five years in the form of volunteer assistant coaches Ken Miller and Heidi Hahn.
Miller, a full-time volunteer, came to the program at the beginning of the 2003 season, soon after his family moved to the Brainerd lakes area.
He is the Associate Executive Director and Junior Coordinator for the North Country Region of USA Volleyball, which overseas youth volleyball programs.
"We had a lake place up here for a while and when I began working from home and moved to the area Jane approached me and asked if I wanted to help out," he said. "I accepted and for the last five years or so my full-time job has been volleyball and my part-time hobby job has been volleyball."
Being immersed in volleyball is nothing new for Miller, who has played since the age of 10 after picking it up watching his father, who began playing in the Air Force.
Miller has known Peterson for decades. His daughter Kari was part of the 1996 CLC team that was the first to go to nationals.
Hahn, in her fourth season, also has had a long relationship with the game of volleyball.
She was part of the 1987 state championship team at Concordia Academy and was an all-state setter in 1988. Hahn continued playing at Division I Montana State on a full-ride scholarship.
After coaching for nearly a decade afterwards, including an eight-year stint at Brainerd High School, Hahn decided to take a break from volleyball.
Hahn, now a special education teacher at ISD 181 Learning Center, said thanks to Peterson she was able to continue her involvement in the game she loves after a one-year hiatus.
"I just really respected her. I would come and watch her games and her teams. She was always willing to help and very involved with the high school. So I kind of got to know her that way," she said. "I was pretty honored when I asked if she needed some help and she said yes.
I was missing coaching. I'm part-time because of the demands of my job. I come flying through the door when I can. And that's what I appreciate about Jane and her being flexible. Otherwise I would have no involvement in coaching because there's no way my work schedule would allow it. So it really is a privilege."
While Miller and Hahn respect Peterson for how she runs the program, the appreciation is mutual.
Peterson said both of their contributions are vital to the program's success.
"They don't just make a huge difference in the contact they have with students here. It's the other people they know," she said. "Just promoting Central Lakes volleyball to people that I don't know in the volleyball world. And that's quite helpful. If this volleyball program has a reputation, part of that is due to them."
The experience the trio bring to the table, 92 year's worth according to Miller, along with the time they have continually put in has helped the Raiders become one of the most successful junior college programs in the nation and this year is no different.
Hahn said she simply tries to contribute what she can to the program to help CLC remain in its position as an elite team.
"I try to bring energy. I really try to connect with the kids on a personal level. I think because of my background in counseling and things like that kids think I'm easy to talk to," she said. "It's a fun role to have because I'm kind of the fun coach.
"I have so much respect for what happens in this gym. The kids here are unbelievable. They're just a really positive, motivated, dedicated group of athletes that work together towards a common goal. They're very appreciative. Any second I can get here is fun. And that's what motivates me."
Miller said the large time commitment is sometimes difficult but the players who make up the team make it all worth it.
"It's a lot of hours yes, but the kids make it fun. This is the most enjoyable thing I do in volleyball," he said. "The players are here because they love volleyball. To me that's kind of the perfect place to be."
TY RUSHMEYER can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5865.
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