Struble announces retirement from volleyball after 38 years

Struble announces retirement from volleyball after 38 years

By Eric Becker

CARLINVILLE (Dec. 14, 2017) – The last time the Carlinville volleyball team did not have Fran Struble as a coach, Jimmy Carter was still the President of the United States of America.

In 2018-19, there will be a new leader of the Cavaliers with tough shoes to fill after Struble announced that 2017 would indeed be her final year as the head coach, ending a remarkable 38-year reign.

The announcement came at the end-of-the-year volleyball banquet  Dec. 5 at the Carlinville Elk’s Lodge, honoring the past team that won a sectional championship for the ninth time in school history.

“For 38 years God has let me do something I absolutely loved to do,” Struble said at the banquet. “Not many people get to get up in the morning and love to do what you do. And I have.”

Struble took over the helm in 1980-81 and for nearly the next four decades, created a winning culture and atmosphere within the volleyball confines of Carlinville High School.

“I didn’t want anyone else to know until I told you,” Struble said at the banquet. “It was important that I told you and you didn’t read it in the newspaper. So, I’ve loved every minute of it. I could not have asked for a better 38 years.”

Not only from a coaching standpoint, but from a life standpoint, Struble made quite an impression on a number of female athletes who had the honor of calling her coach.

Struble coached her own daughters, Jami (Parker) and Kim (Spencer), nieces and different generations of mothers and daughters. Her husband, Wayne, continues to be a steady rock who helped guide her through some of the rough patches throughout her career, after being diagnosed with a muscle disorder in 1981.

Current players and those in attendance at the banquet were perhaps a bit stunned by the announcement, but Struble always said that God would decide when it was time to retire. She asks that question after every season, and this year, it was He said ‘No’ to another season on the bench.

Her teams never had a losing season. Thirty straight seasons of 20-plus wins to boot. She finished with a record of 930-279, including back-to-back 23-14 seasons to end her career. Her final season, the girls came together at the right time for a postseason run, winning their own regional and the Nashville Sectional, before losing to eventual third-place Newton at the Vandalia Supersectional.

Struble retires as the sixth all-time wins leader for volleyball coach in the state of Illinois, according to ihsa.org website.

Win number 800 came at the Pawnee tournament a few years back. Number 900 at Staunton just last season. Still, those aren’t what made Struble continue to coach.

“It’s never been about numbers, ever,” Struble said.  “It’s never been about coaching 40 years, or about 1,000 wins.  It’s always been about the ladies and that’s always what I’ve ever cared about. I will miss these girls so much and I will miss all of you so much.”

Struble said she will not stay away, and she will come see the team play in the future and see how they develop.

“I am very much at peace with this,” Struble said. “I’m very happy for Wayne because Wayne has given up 38 years of me being gone, me coming home late. He’s stood behind me all these years.”

Editor’s Note: The Enquirer-Democrat will have  more in-depth look at the career of Coach Struble in an upcoming edition, including comments from former players who helped shape one of the best volleyball coaching careers in the state of Illinois. Struble discussed how volleyball has changed over the years and battling through some tough years with her medical condition. Look for the story in the Dec. 28 edition. 

Struble coach talk cutline: Fran Struble during a timeout earlier this past season at the Edwardsville tournament talks strategy to her players. Struble has announced the end of a 38-year coaching career with her retirement.