KASSON — Life doesn't always take people where they think they were headed, and sometimes it takes them to a place they never knew existed.
That's the quickest way to explain how an ex-professional beach volleyball player and his wife, a former top college player from Germany, landed in the small town of Mantorville.
But after a little more than a year here, Adam and Yvonne VanOort and their two children are feeling at home, and already they are giving back to their new community as assistant coaches in Kasson-Mantorville High School's volleyball program.
"They are very interesting people who are making an impact on the youth at K-M," said Larry Hegerle, who is in his 18th season as head coach of the successful KoMets volleyball program.
Adam Van Oort, 37, is a Minnesota native who grew up in Fulda and became a top-flight volleyball player in a club program at the University of Minnesota. That's where he met Yvonne, who was recruited from Germany to play for the Gophers by former head coach Mike Hebert.
"I really didn't even know where Minnesota was to be honest," said Yvonne, whose coach in Germany was a friend of one the Gophers' assistant coaches at the time in the late 1990s.
"I saw it as a challenge. My English wasn't very good, and that was the initial obstacle. But I just wanted to play a different level of volleyball."
Change of plans
Yvonne's plan was to play four years of college volleyball in Minnesota and then go back home to Germany and play professionally. What she did not plan was meeting Adam and falling in love.
"All of us volleyball players hung out together, and one thing just led to another," explained Adam. They began dating and as fate would have it Yvonne became pregnant during her sophomore year.
Yvonne, whose maiden name is Wichert, played with the Gophers during the early stages of her pregnancy. She and Adam were married while in college, and she gave birth to their first child, Niclas, in December 1999.
Yvonne, a left-side hitter, was able to return and play well in her junior season. She helped Minnesota to a 30-4 record and a second straight trip to the NCAA Sweet 16. She was named all-conference for a third straight year.
"She had been our best passer for two years," Hebert explained in an archived story on the Gophers website. "She not only came back, but she did her best passing of her three years."
"That was really a whirlwind year, trying to be an athlete, student and still have to uphold that scholarship, but I'm glad I did it," she said.
But with her new family to attend to, Yvonne did not play her senior year, did not graduate, and most significantly didn't return home to Germany. Their second child, Noelle, was born in 2002.
"My parents were not very happy when I announced on the phone that I was staying here; as my dad's only child that was pretty rough on him," she said.
Never intended to coach
Adam, who is 6-foot-4, played professional beach volleyball for six years after college, traveling to weekend tournaments while also running his own business, DataNab, which sells specialized electronics through its website, DataNab.com.
Adam played against Hegerle's adult sons Eric and Jon, whom he called "phenomenal." Jon Hegerle is now the head volleyball coach at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota.
The VanOort's were living in Apple Valley before moving to Mantorville. Adam said they wanted to get out of the Twin Cities and find a good school district with strong academics. A good volleyball program for Noelle, who is in fifth grade, and a good wrestling program for Nic, a seventh-grader would be a bonus. They found both at K-M, and before long Hegerle found them.
"Neither of us had ever talked about wanting to coach before we came here; in fact we talked about not wanting to coach," Adam revealed. Now, Yonne is in her second year as K-M's JV coach, and Adam assists Hegerle with the varsity.
Hegerle, who was inducted into the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame in 2007, may have found someone to entrust his program with, although he has no plans to retire. And the VanOort's have found satisfaction in coaching that they didn't know existed.
"I've changed my view a little bit, even from last year to this," Yvonne said. "Coaching is very time-consuming and not well paid, so you have to have a different reason for doing it. For me, it's fun to get to know the players as girls, and help them along to be good people as well as good athletes. It's very rewarding."