Winters: ‘Pound the volleyball and I’ll like it’

Abe Winter
Star Columnist

Volleyball, both men’s and women’s, became one of my favorite sports way back when.

I remember playing so many years ago at Weyburn Collegiate Institute — the good ol’ WCI Eagles — in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

We thought we were pretty good, winning the Southeast Region and qualifying for the provincial high school tournament in Saskatoon, about 225 miles away.

We played a Saskatoon school in the first round and went against a player who already was playing for the Canadian Junior National Team. He hit the ball so hard on his kills that we were ducking to avoid getting our noses and fingers busted.

We were eliminated in two straight and were on our way home.

Those four years at WCI were the extent of my playing career except for the noon league at the YMCA in Grand Forks, North Dakota, during my 10-year stay there — first as a student and then as a sports reporter at the Grand Forks Herald.

I recall the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. That’s where Bruce Jenner became the decathlon champion and also where the men’s championship in volleyball was a late-night matchup of my native Poland and Russia.

Remember, this was Canada, where at 11 p.m. the national news is on both the CBC and CTV networks every night. So I thought the telecast of the Olympic volleyball would be cut off for 30 minutes as I watched with more than a casual interest in my Grand Forks home.

Heck no, the volleyball telecast continued and I think the news broadcast was delayed at least 90 minutes as I watched Poland defeat the Russians for the gold medal. I’m not certain, but I think I may have awakened my neighbors with my early-morning cheers.

Ever since, volleyball has been my favorite team sport in the Olympics. And I also enjoy it at the college and high school levels.

I got to cover the NCAA Division I women’s tourney in Omaha, where it was won by host Nebraska. It was amazing competition.

So, if it’s played the “right way” here — at both Custer County District High School and Miles Community College — I will be providing a lot of coverage.

I look forward to working with the new coaches — Kodi Malnaa at CCDHS and Chase Soennichsen at MCC — and hope the talent level they put on the court translates to pounding the ball. That’s what I mean by the “right way” of playing; not the backyard picnic style of just getting the ball over the net.

After talking with both coaches, I’m sure it will be entertaining volleyball. I can’t wait to see it.



— Having grown up in Canada, you probably would think I have a great interest in hockey. You’d be thinking right. So it will be interesting to see how the youth program progresses in Miles City. 

Wish I was 30 years younger and healthier; I could help the program with my slick stick-handling and refereeing. Too late.

By the way, I was known as a one-way player — all offense, absolutely no defense.

I knew when my playing days were over — at age 16 — and switched to officiating. My duties mostly involved making icing and offside calls, but I broke up a lot of fights when working as a linesman in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

— New CCDHS athletic director Dominick Vergara is getting some help this week from former AD Mike Ryan, who has moved to Billings after retiring last month.

“It’s been good,” Vergara said of the transition help from Ryan. “We’re getting all settled in. We’re getting excited, meeting people.”

He had a sports parent/athlete meeting Monday in the school’s auditorium.

“We had a packed house,” he said.

Besides the reporting of athletes for falls sports, a major item is the impact testing of all CCDHS athletes. It involves prevention and care of head and neck injuries.

“It’s an interesting test,” Vergara said. I’m really big on head and neck injuries. They have to be handled with care.”

The tests are conducted by Katie Patch, athletic trainer and lifestyles coach at Holy Rosary Healthcare.

(Contact Abe Winter at or 406-234-0450.)