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In Play with Craig Mattick: Anita Boeck

Anita Boeck
SDPB
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She's the second winningest coach in South Dakota high school volleyball history. Anita Boeck, who coached for 29 seasons in the Mt. Rushmore state won 731 games. She helped lead the Arlington Cardinals to 14 state tournament appearances, six runner-up finishes, and a state championship in 2010.
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Craig Mattick:
Welcome to another edition of In Play. I'm Craig Mattick. Today's guest is one of the all-time winningest coaches in high school volleyball in South Dakota. She finished her 29 year coaching career as the number two all-time winningest volleyball coach. And all of those 731 wins was at one school in, I think, the toughest class in the state. 29 years at Arlington, winning 74% of her matches over that time. Our guest is Anita Boeck and Anita, welcome to In Play.

Anita Boeck:
Well, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Craig Mattick:
It's been a couple years now that you retired from coaching. What's it been like watching from the sidelines?

Anita Boeck:
Oh my goodness. What a difference that is. Those years 29 years that you're down on that floor and all the excitement that you get and just being able to be with the girls and getting those relationships that you have and then all of a sudden that's done and now you're in the crowd. I think that first year out was really, really tough on me and now you're kind of building into it and realizing that this is the way it's going to be and so now just enjoying and getting to sit back and my grandchildren go once in a while, so I get to sit back with them and enjoy the match.

Craig Mattick:
Why did you retire after 29 years?

Anita Boeck:
Well, I guess it was just a few things. One of them was I do have a sickness that I have and so my lungs are giving me some trouble and I think it was just kind of time when Josie Perry came to teach in Arlington and I just figured she'd be a good coach and just kind of worked out at that time. I think it's kind of weird at 29 years and being a math teacher, I should've waited for one more year and had an even number, but that didn't work out.

Craig Mattick:
You're still teaching though. You're still teaching math.

Anita Boeck:
I still am, yes. I'm still in Arlington teaching math and enjoy that a lot.

Craig Mattick:
You graduated from Westbrook High School, that's in southwest Minnesota, kind of between Slayton and Windom over there. What was it like living in small town Minnesota?

Anita Boeck:
Westbrook was a really nice town for us. It's kind of the same size as Arlington and so I think when we... Tim and I moved here to Arlington, it felt like home and we just had great people to work with in Westbrook and I feel like we have just great teachers and coaches and kids here in Arlington too, so it just feels really good to be in something like that. We're just not used to a big town, so this felt really good to us.

Craig Mattick:
Westbrook, about 700 people there in southwest Minnesota. And so how involved in athletics were you as a kid?

Anita Boeck:
Well, that's kind of funny because I did play volleyball. I was terrible. I always laugh because I do remember I had one really good hit and that really good hit was when I was in practice and so never in a match, did I have anything good happen, but I loved it. I loved being out. I loved being a part of the team and just kind of crazy that that happens and things happen like that. I ran track for a little bit and my mom told me I was terrible and so obviously I'm not a real good athlete, but it was fun and it was enjoyable.

Craig Mattick:
So the whole family wasn't necessarily that active then, when you were growing up?

Anita Boeck:
I think we were. I think my younger brothers won quite a few things and state football championships and then went to the state basketball and of course my husband Tim, we were together in high school and so they went and won championships also, but I just was not very good, so... That's okay. I could do other things I guess.

Craig Mattick:
Well, you went to South Dakota State for college. What was it about Brookings that interested you back then?

Anita Boeck:
Well, Tim and I, right before we got married, we went to Wilmer, Minnesota and I went to tech school and he went to college and played a little basketball there and then Scott Underwood talked to Tim and Tim and I got married then that summer, once we were out of high school and so he wanted him to come to SDSU and run track. And so then we moved here and I was working and just really didn't like it. And so then I decided to go to college and I remember calling home to my dad and I'm like, I don't know, I think I got to do something different. He's like, Why don't you go to college? And so there it was. SDSU was right there and it was just a great place for us.

Craig Mattick:
But you had to decide what you wanted to do for a major. I assume that maybe took a little time or not?

Anita Boeck:
It did actually. I kind of liked accounting and I thought that would be good and that didn't work out. I even liked Home Ec and that didn't work out, and I wanted to be an elementary teacher and that didn't work out. And so a math teacher for 30 some years.

Craig Mattick:
So...

Anita Boeck:
Isn't it crazy how things can change and you have your mindset on something and all of a sudden it goes in a different direction.

Craig Mattick:
But your interest in volleyball started really early and that one never, never faded away from you, did it?

Anita Boeck:
That has just been so great. And when I came here to Arlington, I was hired by Lowell Gilbertson and he called me into his office and he's like, There's an opening for volleyball coach. And I'm like, Well, I played volleyball in high school, so that sounds like a good plan. And then I didn't even realize that Beth Schutt, who is just a great coach and she had left here then in Arlington, and so I picked up after her. Well, that was not a really good idea because she had such a great program here and me coming in knowing really not very much. And now that I look back, I'm like, What in the world, Anita were you doing? And it worked out, but I'm telling you it took a lot of time and a lot of prep.

Craig Mattick:
I was wondering how you came up with your style of volleyball in your beliefs.

Anita Boeck:
I think about that a lot and how we went to practice and some of the things that we did. And I just think, gosh, all those clinics and the South Dakota Volleyball Coaches Association and the High School Coaches Association, thank goodness they put on all the clinics that they did and brought people in. And Tim and I were both coaching at the time, so we would go to a lot of them and just try to learn everything you can. And at that time it wasn't as easy. You couldn't just hop on the internet and find some great information. So at that time you had to buy your DVDs and you had to watch them. You had to read a book. Yeah, it was just all different back then.

Craig Mattick:
Well, that interview you had for the teaching job at Arlington, you started though in Vulga, right? Were you a math teacher in Vulga?

Anita Boeck:
I was. I taught in Vulga for one year. Yep. I worked a little bit with special ed and then with math there and then this position opened up and I guess here I am.

Craig Mattick:
So what was that very first volleyball practice in Arlington? What was it like as the head coach?

Anita Boeck:
Well, first of all, it took me hours and hours and hours to write. And so I think back to that when I was here and writing down my practice and trying to get it ready, I didn't even know where to start. And so I remember being down in Sioux Falls at a tournament and Beth Schutt happened to come and that was nice of her. So I walked up to her and I'm just` like, you got any pointers for me? And she's like, Why do you have your setter sitting with her left hand to the net? I don't know. I don't know. So I knew there was a lot of work that I needed to do.

Craig Mattick:
Wow.

Anita Boeck:
Definitely a lot of work. But she was nice and didn't make me feel terrible, but she's like, Yeah, you might want to fix that.

Craig Mattick:
Was it the first year or the second year that you were the head coach that you made it to the state volleyball tournament?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, it was the second year. The first year was just a crazy, crazy region tournament. I can't even remember all the teams that we played it was so long ago, but it was just nonstop. I think it was probably double elimination. We were maybe over, I don't know, Planview area. And we got beat out just barely right at the end of that region tournament. So then that next year in '92 we were able to win and go on to that state tournament. So it was our second year.

Craig Mattick:
Your teams seemed to be just getting better and better. So what was your coaching was getting better and better?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, I think, I don't know, it's so hard. You just have to look at yourself I think, and find out what you're doing wrong and to try to make things better. I think when you start out you think, oh, the kids are doing this wrong. But I remember walking home one time and going, Oh my goodness, you have to look at what you're doing. And that was looking at what I'm doing and try to make things better. And volleyball is just such a crazy sport because you have to get along so well. And it's kind of like a mind game. And I think that that was probably one of my favorite things is to be able to deal with that part of it.

Craig Mattick:
Is volleyball, like mathematics, where you have to show your work?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, I think it actually is. You got to do this until this works. And yeah, I'd say it's kind of the same.

Craig Mattick:
14 trips to the state volleyball tournament for Arlington. And of those 14 trips, you made it to the finals seven times. In fact, it was seven times in 13 years you made it to the state championship match. Just kind of curious, when you made it to the state tournament, what was it like in Arlington when they knew the girls were going to state?

Anita Boeck:
Oh, I think about that with our fans that we have here in our community that we have seriously, they are the best. It didn't matter even what match it was or what tournament it was, they were always ready to cheer us on. And even if we're driving out to Rapid City, you might as well have shut the town down because they came and stayed in Rapid, wherever it was, and cheered everybody on. We just had some really, really good support. And when you're seriously going to state that many times in a row, I think it's hard to keep people really interested. And our fans just were with us all along.

Craig Mattick:
That first championship match, this is the finals for Arlington. 1999, it was Northwestern coached by the great Kathy Graves. You lost in five sets. What do you remember about that first time in the state championship?

Anita Boeck:
Oh my goodness. I remember that one actually quite vividly. We were a pretty good team. Well actually we were quite a good team and I remember just looking up at the score and actually my family, I remember them saying, We looked up and you only had a couple more points and you would've been state champ. And then things just didn't go our way. And Kathy's such a great coach and so many things that she had did right for all of her teams and yeah, there's a lot of things that I should have done differently with that. And now when you look back though, just that feeling of walking out on that floor, it never changed. It never changed. It never got old. It probably only got better.

Craig Mattick:
Well you played Northwestern again in the finals the next year and Northwestern won again in five sets. Was the Arlington team the same? Did you have a veteran club at that time or did you start to see some younger players at that time who were at State, now were in state again and maybe felt more comfortable in the finals?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, in 2000 I think we had a lot of the same players too. And so they were '99 juniors and then they came in as seniors in two, and that was the Rapid City one. And I think that was that big snow storm. And so if I remember right, our superintendent was trying to get us out of here because we wanted to make it out to Rapid before the big storm came.

So he came up to the school, Chris Lund got us our pizza made, we were doing a practice quick because we knew we were going to have trouble. And so he got pizza made and all of a sudden here comes the snow and the ice coming down and we took off for Rapid, woke up the next day and you couldn't get anywhere. Eating places were shut down, you couldn't have your practices. And some of our fans were stuck somewhere. And that was also the night, I believe it was probably midnight when we got out of there cause it was double elimination. And of course they beat us then, so then we had to play them two more times.

Craig Mattick:
But what a stretch you had for your Arlington squad from 2007 through 2012, five out of six years Arlington made it to that state championship match. You lost to Warner in '09 and then you played Warner again in 2010 for the title, but you won it. You won it all in 2010. What was that experience like knowing that you'd been there three times before and hadn't won it and then finally reached the top of the mountain?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, that was just a great feeling. I'll never forget what the kids look like and once they had won. We actually even talked about that. What do you do if you do win a state tournament? How do you even act out on the floor? Because you can tell we didn't win any of the state titles until that time and we were looking at pictures and what do you do? And they all just came together right out on the floor and yeah, that was really fun. Really fun.

Craig Mattick:
Let's mention some of those players that you had on that state championship team. Did you have your daughter on that team? Was Samantha on that team?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, she was pretty young. She played a few positions in the front row at that time I think she was probably a ninth grader and she did pretty good. She was helpful. She had a little bit of height for us and didn't do too bad. We had some great players at that time out there on that floor. And one of them Kelsey Warnke is coaching here in Arlington right now. And so that's kind of fun to see those girls coming into playing on your team and then also coming here and now giving back to all these kids.

Craig Mattick:
I think you only had three seniors on that championship team.

Anita Boeck:
Yeah.

Craig Mattick:
Was it a little unexpected that this team with only three seniors made it back to the championship?

Anita Boeck:
Well, and I think I was matching us up with Warner and looking at what they could do and what we could do. And I think in every single area, they were probably better than us. And it happens so many times, but in volleyball you just never know if you could get on a roll or if something good can happen and not go the other way and in that time we were able to put together a championship team.

Craig Mattick:
What is it about Warner and Northwestern and Class B volleyball over the years...

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, they're good.

Craig Mattick:
It's been so consistent ever since you... Even when you started coaching, Warner and Northwestern were already doing damage to the class.

Anita Boeck:
Yep, really good. The coaches that they have just do such a great job with them and how they can pull them together and bring out championship teams year after year after year. Obviously that has to go back to the coaching staff. And I always even think too parents, because I think parents have to be involved in what you're doing and enjoy what you're doing and they are able to do that with everybody in their areas.

Craig Mattick:
How much hard work did these girls put in during those years that you were making the state tournament pretty much every year and making it to the finals? I mean, how much work were they putting in in the summer, club volleyball? I mean, how focused were they during that time?

Anita Boeck:
Right. I think it's even gotten different now, but back a few years ago too, 10 years ago, five years ago, that was really starting to be an important part where the girls were putting in so much more time, not only in volleyball but just getting bigger, stronger, faster. And I think that those were the things that really changed. And I think that it has made the sport of volleyball so fun to watch just because they've gotten so much better. I know some would play club volleyball in the area. I know they'd go to camps all over the place and team camps. And so that part has changed so much from when I first started. We used to take the air out of the volleyballs. So I think that kind of says what happened. We would take it out and I remember going up there and getting ready for the next year and it's like, you got to pump the volleyballs up. Well now that doesn't happen. They're ready to roll because they're ready all the time.

Craig Mattick:
Who was your biggest rival when you were coaching besides Northwestern and Warner?

Anita Boeck:
Besides them, huh?

Craig Mattick:
Yeah, besides them. Chester area?

Anita Boeck:
Oh goodness. Yes. Chester has such a great program too. And they were always just so fun to play because you want to play good teams and I think Chris Lund did just such a great job on setting us up with that and getting us to play really good teams. I know we'd play Wagner, we'd get to go play Webster, which was... When I first started, that was always a fun thing to do. They had such a great program. Parker, once in a while we'd get to play them in a tournament, even Winter and Millbank. Oh my goodness. They were a team that we always enjoyed playing. And now even looking at some of the teams coming along, you look at Elton-Lake Benton and Coleman-Egan and I don't know, I guess there's a whole bunch of them that you just are so thankful that you have those good opportunities to play such tough team.

Craig Mattick:
You had a couple of daughters play for you, Anita. What was it like coaching your daughters in volleyball and getting to the state tournament with them?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah. That was really fun. I remember all those years of everything that they do. And those two were so different than each other, so it was kind of funny cause Allie was a setter and a hitter at some points, but then Sammy was mainly a hitter and so knowing just the differences between those two. And then Samantha had diabetes and so we'd have to call a time out every once in a while and get her fruit snacks or whatever she needed and get her ready to go. But I think sometimes people have a really hard time coaching their daughters. I guess I just really enjoyed it and I hope that I treated them the same as everybody else and I think it just worked out really quite well.

Craig Mattick:
Did you have strategy sessions at the dinner table?

Anita Boeck:
Oh goodness, yes. Yep. We did have to have a few of those. I'm sure they could still look at me right now and go, Oh, my. Those never stopped. They never stop.

Craig Mattick:
What did volleyball teach you the most as a coach?

Anita Boeck:
I think that some of the things with volleyball, just that just being able to bond with people and the hard work that you're going to put in and just giving you that determination and that we're able to lean on each other for support. And I just think that volleyball has made... You'd just be able to come together and knowing that other people are there for you and there's just so many coaches and athletes and officials and different people that you've gotten to know and you've gotten to know them quite well. And so you always know you have somebody there if you need something.

Craig Mattick:
See, the last time I think you were at the state tournament was 2012, in the championship. What's it been like over the past eight years that you coached? What was Arlington volleyball like?

Anita Boeck:
It was, I think such a part of really working hard and going out there and giving it everything you had. And I think for Arlington volleyball, just to be able to see where you start at the beginning and then you get to the end of the season and where you go from there. And so I think just that determination and just that hard work and you wanted to keep up what the program was. And so when we look back to what Beth had it at, you wanted to keep up to that. And I think it's hard work and it's hard work for everybody. And so I think that they did a really nice job of that.

Craig Mattick:
Yeah. I know you won the volleyball championship in 2010 and it's kind of like asking you which child you like best, but was 2010 the best team you coached?

Anita Boeck:
Oh boy. There's just so many good teams. I can think back to even way back in 92 was just a different team, and 99 and 2000 and just the progress that each of the teams made just because the more time that you put in, the better that you got. 2010 was a great team. Really, really was. But I think that there were some in there that were equally as good, just couldn't put it together at that last thing to win that championship. But to win that and to be able to come home with a state championship was just pretty special.

Craig Mattick:
29 years coaching volleyball at Arlington, the wins just piled up year after year. You won your 400th match, then your 500th, your 600th, then your 700th match, and it was just a couple of years before you retired, 731 wins. What would you attribute the success of your Arlington volleyball to?

Anita Boeck:
Well, it just seems so funny to think about that because as you're coaching, you just coach and now when you say like 731 wins, that's just a lot. And we had so many great people. I know Sam Martins was our volunteer coach and he was a friend of volleyball a few years ago. He loved the stat part of the game and so that part was really good. Lisa Perry too was my assistant here the last few years and we're really good friends. And I think that just being really good friends helped us because we were able to come up with some fun ideas for the kids and the team. I just think us getting along helps the team get along and I think that to me is such an important part of volleyball. You have to all work together and in order to get them to do that, you sometimes have to teach them that. And I think that that is probably one of the things that we were able to do these last years.

Craig Mattick:
Parker's Jill Christensen, number one, all time winning as coach. She had 837 wins over 36 years. You're next at number two, Anita, over 29 years with those 731 wins, which only 106 wins behind Jill, it would only take another three or four years, Anita to beat that record.

Anita Boeck:
I know. What was I thinking about? I told you that 29 years is that odd number. I should have definitely stayed in there. Oh, Jill's so great. It's just been fun to get to know her too. And she's just a perfectly normal person like all of us and worked hard. And so it's pretty neat that she's been able to do that.

Craig Mattick:
What are we doing best for high school volleyball in South Dakota? We saw the volleyball season switch, so we had the rally scoring, the libero. I mean we led the country in starting rally scoring. So what are we doing best in South Dakota when it comes to volleyball?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, I think there's actually quite a few things. I think just giving the kids the opportunities now. There's so many more opportunities than what they had years ago. And I think rally scoring has just made it such an exciting sport for people. It's more fun to watch. And so I think you get more people at matches and so I think that has made it progress into a really exciting sport to be able to go to and to watch.

Craig Mattick:
You remember some of those matches without rally scoring, it would take forever to play some matches. Does one come to mind that it would just go on and on and on?

Anita Boeck:
Yes. Actually, I was trying to think of the other day, I think we were playing Dubrick and it would've been double elimination and it would've been to go... It would've been the region tournament and we played nine different sets. And so I remember people calling the school wondering where their kids were because I suppose back then they didn't have cell phones.

Craig Mattick:
That's right.

Anita Boeck:
And so people were calling, Where are my kids? And so I remember them saying, Well, the match is still going on. And so I think it was nine sets. We ended up winning that one, but I think it was after midnight when we finally got finished with that. Oh, just so many fun... Those marathon matches that you can think about that... Wow. Now I don't know if I could make it till midnight.

Craig Mattick:
What was your team's favorite ritual after winning a match?

Anita Boeck:
Oh, we would... I just think mainly about after region tournaments. And so after a region tournament and if you won and you're going to go to the state tournament, oh, they had all kinds of things. They had to tie dye shirts, you had to all meet up and get a supper. We would have grandparent's nights. And I think those things had made it so fun for the girls because you would try to carry those little rituals on and try to outdo what they did the year before. And it ended up to get to be during the day that we'd try to have a little fun in school and get stuff ready. Right before that state tournament is really the best because those few hours you can kind of relax for a couple minutes and then all of a sudden it's crazy time again.

Craig Mattick:
Anita, you've got six grandkids, are you just about ready to coach them a little bit the next couple of years?

Anita Boeck:
I think that sounds great. I actually have eight now, and so...

Craig Mattick:
Oh.

Anita Boeck:
They're doing a pretty good job to get me some girls too. So I got a little Macy who's going to volleyball camp in Windom, Minnesota and then Natalie and Nora are getting ready to start here. So you know, you might as well start when you're young because that's what everybody's doing. So they get a couple balls hit at them every once in a while from old grandma.

Craig Mattick:
So we found out that according to you, you were not a very good volleyball player.

Anita Boeck:
That is correct.

Craig Mattick:
You had just one good hit. I'm thinking it was an ace probably.

Anita Boeck:
Let's go with that.

Craig Mattick:
And here, after 29 years, 731 wins, number two all-time winningest... But you don't have to be the most athletic to be a coach, but you're in the South Dakota Volleyball Coach's Association Hall of Fame. What does that mean for you, Anita?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, I think the older you get and an award that you get to receive that is just so special. You can now take a look back and just reflect on some of the things that happened and all the athletes that came through this program and bought into what we were doing and helped in that process. And you don't even realize why things like that happened, but they bought into it and worked really hard and we were able to put a lot of things together for a lot of wins.

Craig Mattick:
Well, I know you're still running into a lot of the all time great volleyball coaches, whether you see them at the state tournament or maybe you sneak into a coach's convention to see them. But when you still see Jill Christensen from Parker or all of the great ones that used to coach, what are you talking about when you see them today?

Anita Boeck:
I think everything's volleyball. It's usually about volleyball and finding out what they're doing now. But usually it goes back to just some of the matches that you played or some of the great things that have happened and which camps you went to or which of the clinics that you went to. And so I think sometimes you just reflect back on some of the things that you did and how different it is now to not be coaching. And I think it was so fun and exciting. And of course there's things that are tough with coaching, but I think in the end there's just so much that you can learn from it and I think that you can keep on talking about that and keep on getting better, just dealing with your family and dealing with your teaching and dealing with what we're doing now.

Craig Mattick:
One last one for you, Anita. Since you are a math teacher was statistics. Was that something you just loved putting together for your team or did you have somebody else do all that?

Anita Boeck:
Yeah, I did like statistics. I liked it on special things. I seriously liked the mind part of it a little bit better and working on how you get kids to get along and some are going to play and some aren't going to play. And I mean I knew when I was in high school I wasn't going to play and I made it out just fine. I feel like I'm a fine person or a decent person. And so I think that was kind of more my thing. I love statistics and taking a look at how many errors can you have in a match and I think that is so crazy, the number of errors that are there and you can even still win. But if you can cut down on your errors, you might be a little bit better off.

Craig Mattick:
If you like what you're hearing, please give us a five star review wherever you get your podcasts. Programs such as this are only possible through the continued support of our listeners like you. For South Dakota Public Broadcasting, I'm Craig Mattick. Join us again on the next episode of In Play.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.