Head coach Steve Shondell looks on as his team plays in the second game of the Active Ankle Tournament against Belmont on Aug. 28 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
Shondell retires after 40-year coaching career in Muncie
Kelly Hopkins remembers the first time she met Steve Shondell in the eighth grade.
She had always dreamed of playing college basketball. But when she joined a Munciana Volleyball Club team, Shondell stopped her one afternoon and said he wanted her to play for him at Ball State.
Hopkins said from that point on her dream was to play for him with the Cardinals. She went on to play for the program from 2012-15.
Steve Shondell Career Accolades
2014 - First member of the Burris Athletics Hall of Fame
2010 - Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year
2009 - PrepVolleyball.com's National Coach of the Year
2007 - American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame
2005 - Ball State University Athletic Hall of Fame
1996 - Indiana Volleyball Hall of Fame
Shondell has coached thousands of players throughout the years. After six seasons as the head coach of the Ball State women's volleyball team, he announced his retirement from the program on Monday.
He said he thought it was the best time for him to step away from the game and the program, citing his health as a reason to retire at this point.
While health was not the sole reason the 61-year old decided to retire, it did play a role.
“I hadn’t been feeling well for the past eight weeks, my body was just telling me that it was time to step away from the battle," Shondell said. "I’ve been doing this for years and enjoyed every minute of it."
He is planning on getting a physical soon to figure out why he has been feeling under the weather.
Shondell has been the head coach at Ball State for six years, but he's been around the sport for his entire life.
The son of legendary Ball State men's volleyball coach Don Shondell, Steve played for the Cardinals and followed his father's footsteps to Burris Laboratory School, where he took over as women's volleyball coach in 1976.
Steve spent 34 seasons at Burris, compiling a 1,183-95 record and leading the Owls to 21 state championships, including 13 straight at the class 2A level, four national championships and seven undefeated seasons. The rafters of Ball Gymnasium are covered in blue and gold women's volleyball championship banners from his time as coach.
His passion for the game and relationships with his players helped turn him into one of the most successful high school volleyball coaches in Indiana history.
“He just brings the love for the game,” Hopkins said. “He cares about all his players as people.”
Steve continued his Delaware County coaching legacy when he took over at Ball State in 2010. He led the Cardinals to a 119-68 record, two Mid-American Conference regular season championships and an NCAA at-large bid in 2011. He was also named MAC Coach of the Year in 2010.
Ball State finished with a 17-13 record in what would turn out to be Steve's last season.
“It's kind of a new beginning for our program; we graduated six seniors and I’m proud to be able to go out with them,” Steve said. “It's just time for a new coach to come in and let these young birdies spread their wings, be all they can be."
Hopkins said the announcement came as a surprise, and the decision for Steve to retire couldn't have been an easy one.
“Steve is very hard on himself and it has taken a toll on him to be going through this just for the short amount of time that he has been thinking about it,” Hopkins said. “He told me he couldn’t eat, he said he couldn’t sleep.
“Honestly, before now I thought he would be doing this forever.”
Ball State athletic director Mark Sandy said Steve came in a couple of weeks ago and had been thinking about retiring, but "there was no pressure from [the athletic department] whatsoever."
When he came to a decision, he told the team. After the announcement was made and the public started to learn of his retirement, Steve said the outpouring of support and well wishes for his future have been almost overwhelming.
"I wasn't in there. But someone told me when he told [the team] he was retiring, a lot of them were shocked. Missing their mentor, it got emotional," Sandy said.
Steve said he just wanted to take some time to step away from the game for a while until he's ready to get back into it. He looks forward to the time he will have to relax, and plans on taking a few more vacations along with doing private volleyball lessons for children. Steve said he will probably return to the Munciana Volleyball Club, which he helped start in 1974.
But until he's ready to return to the sport that has become his life, Steve can sit back and let all the success from his 40-year career sink in.
“All I wanted to do when I came to Ball State was help pride and respect return to the women’s volleyball program,” Steve said. "I’d like to think that that did happen. I’m very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to finish my career at Ball State.”