KASSON — It's funny how something that Larry Hegerle was once indifferent about, and even resistant to, would come to devour and define a large part of his life.
After an All-American college football career at Hamline University and a flirt with pro football in the 1970s, the former star quarterback had to be talked into volleyball by an old friend from their home town of White Bear Lake.
"A friend of mine, Walt Weaver, he kept asking me to give coaching volleyball a try. He swore I'd love it, but I kept putting him off," Hegerle explained. "Finally, I went to one of his practices at Apple Valley basically to tell him 'no' once and for all — and instead I was instantly hooked."
Hegerle, 65, has retired as head coach of the Kasson-Mantorville High School volleyball program that he guided for 18 seasons, culminating with a fourth-place finish at the Class AA state tournament two weeks ago.
"It's the right time," said Hegerle, who was inducted into Minnesota Volleyball Coaches' Hall of Fame in 2007, 11 years after Weaver, the longtime Apple Valley coach who came out of retirement in 2012 to take over the high-powered Lakeville North program.
After a reluctant start, Hegerle played some professional volleyball and tried out for the 1980 U.S. National Team as a 6-foot-2 middle hitter with a 39-inch vertical leap. He proceeded to coach at the high school and college levels for 30-plus years.
His high school coaching stops were at Park Center, Henry Sibley and K-M, and at the college level he was an assistant at the University of Minnesota, Hamline and Anoka-Ramsey.
Volleyball became a true family affair for Hegerle. While coaching at the U of M he met his wife Deb, who was an All-American for the Gophers. Deb coached with Larry in the K-M program for many years and is currently the coaching director for the Rochester Youth Volleyball Association.
Twin sons Jon and Erik are ex-pro beach players, and Jon Hegerle is a successful head coach at Jamestown College in North Dakota. Daughter Laura, a 2003 K-M grad, was a star player in high school and college at Southwest State, and is in the early stages of her own coaching career which has included college assistant jobs at Luther, Augsburg and Colorado Christian.
Micah, a 2008 K-M grad, didn't play volleyball. He became a two-time All-American in track and field at the U of M, and a two-time Big Ten weight throw champion.
Larry Hegerle guided K-M volleyball to four state tournaments and a 373-159 record in 18 seasons, with 101 wins in the last four years.He had "prayed for years" for someone he could entrust the program to, "someone who was young and exuberant and willing to put in the time."
Hegerle found that person in second-year assistant coach Adam VanOort, 37, a former pro beach player. His wife Yvonne starred in college for the Gophers and has been K-M's freshman coach the last two years.
"It's not official, but I've talked to Adam and he's willing to do it, if they'll have him," Hegerle said.
Hegerle intends to continue teaching junior and senior year social studies at K-M for another four or five years.