by Kyle Koso
The TC NIT Heart of Sport Award is presented by Triple Crown Sports in honor of coaches and program directors who go the extra mile in developing players, building character and supporting the priorities of hard work and compassion while demonstrating the highest level of integrity to the sport, the players, the families and competitors.
In 2023, it's our honor to salute Ron Kordes, club director at KIVA and head coach at Assumption High School in Louisville, Kentucky. His life’s work has been dedicated to the positive mental and physical growth of all players; we are grateful for Ron’s determination to give back time, energy, money and expertise to create the best possible atmosphere for each student-athlete.
When Ron Kordes began his volleyball coaching career, it’s not like he was ushered to the top spot with a bunch of handshakes and high-fives. No one else appeared to be interested in the job, and Kordes didn’t like the thought of his female middle-school students losing an option to experience what sports can do for a person.
Best intentions didn’t mean he had the best strategies right away; building skills in those neophyte athletes took primary concern over building a sparkling won-loss record. But over time, Kordes would prove to have the unique ability to elevate his programs while escalating the personal growth of his players.
Through his nearly 35 years of coaching at Assumption High School in Louisville, KY., and four decades of work honing the culture of excellence found in the Kentucky/Indiana Volleyball Academy (KIVA), Kordes has long been understood as one of the sport’s titans and today’s pockets yet another honor, earning the 2023 TC NIT Heart of Sport Award.
“I really just stumbled into volleyball and coaching; I had been playing adult rec volleyball, back when you played with eight people on the court,” said Kordes, who has won 22 state championships at Assumption to go with 17 national titles from his club squads. “A position opened up, they had no one, and since I’d enjoyed the sport, I said I’d try. I started out with what had been taught to me. There was a travel adult league, and several of those guys were pretty knowledgeable. Call it a crash course. Coaching 7th and 8th grade girls at that time, 40 years ago, we were just cavemen.
“I was one who was always looking to learn. Seeking out those who’d done it and were successful, going to clinics. When I got involved in club, you’re looking at the teams that are beating you … how are they doing that? How are they training for it? You have to have that thirst, and when you stop seeking out that knowledge, you come to a standstill and others pass you up. It’s true in any profession. You have to be willing to change things; it’s easy after you’ve has some success to think, this is the way to do it.”
Kordes showed the way with his empathetic but competitive process in coaching athletics, all in a very interesting time for female athletics. The first NCAA volleyball championship wasn’t even a topic until 1981, and coaches such as Kordes were on the front row of those who saw the untapped capacities of women in sport.
It was a considerable challenge when the dominant forces in culture had a hard time seeing women in that light.
“I was asked frequently by my friends, how can you be coaching girls? How can you like that? It was a question asked too many times to count,” Kordes said. “My answer was, I’ve always enjoyed it. One thing I learned, girls are very honest with you. Coaching young boys, you have to get around the macho (instinct), but with girls, you know where they stand. If they know you care about them, they are willing to do whatever you ask them.
“Their effort was no different than the guys. Girls going for the ball, crashing into a wall or through the fence, it’s very similar. To watch these girls, they got bigger and stronger. When I started, a 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 girl, you’d be lucky if she could walk and not trip. Now, you see 6-7 girls playing six rotations. The athleticism has been there, just a process of tapping it, and they train much harder now. The desire, the mentality, has always been there. For my first three years of coaching, I worked with both, and when the time came to make a decision, it was very easy to go with the girls.”
All these decades later, volleyball is so wildly popular that some athletes turn away from the high-school experience because they want the persistent challenge and training that is assumed with club sports. Kordes, who has an imposing list of achievements in both club and prep settings, would prefer both doors stay open.
“Girls playing club, they are doing it for one primary reason, which is to make their high school team. That’s why you see so many 15’s and 16’s club teams, they’re fighting to make their varsity team in high school,” Kordes said. “I consider the club season to be a development season. In high school, you have the prize of a state championship to go for, something you compete for … yeah, you have it club. It comes down to one’s opinion. We are starting to see kids leave high school early, start college early, and I hate to see that happening. Seniors are missing out by not going through it, but I guess it’s a movement I have no control over, but I’m seeing it. Club is necessary for the recruiting; I’ve just enjoyed the blend, going back and forth.”
Kordes has at times expressed his concern for players who have to confront the pressure cooker of their volleyball settings, knowing just how intense the competition for playing time can be, and for the challenge of living up to previous KIVA and Assumption teams that have gone all the way.
In the end, there are ripple effects that come from suiting up that he has come to embrace, and it’s got pretty much nothing to do with who ends up holding trophies and banners.
“The one thing we’ve always talked about at KIVA and Assumption, is the ability to learn how to compete for what you want. When you quit playing volleyball, the life you’re heading into is very competitive,” he added. “Someone will want the same job as you; to be able to go after what you want without doubt and second thoughts, you just go and try. You won’t be successful all the time, but to not be afraid to go for what you want and to compete for it, is just a great trait you can take through life.”
ASSUMPTION HIGH SCHOOL
Head Coach – 34 years
State Championships – 22
National Championships – 6
AVCA National High School Coach of the Year - 2012
Prep Volleyball National Coach of the Year - 2005
Max Preps National Coach of the Year - 2018
Durango Fall Classic Championships - 6
Nike / Asics Challenge Tournament Championships - 14
Overall Won / Loss Record: 1,185-123
KENTUCKY INDIANA VOLLEYBALL ACADEMY (KIVA)
Club Coach - 40 years
Club Director – 23 years
AVCA Club Director of the Year - 2016
Kordes coached teams:
USAV National Championships - 4
AAU National Championships - 11
JVA National Championships - 2
Commissioner - Pioneer Region - 26 years
USAV CAP ll Certification
USOC Development Coach of the Year - 2005
JUNIOR VOLLEYBALL ASSOCIATION (JVA)
Original Board Member/Past President
National High School Hall of Fame - 2022
American Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame - 2020
Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame - 2007
Dawhare's KHSAA High School Hall of Fame - 2018
Assumption High School Hall of Fame - 2004/2014
Louisville Catholic Sports Hall of Fame - 2013
Metro Athletic Directors Hall of Fame - 2002
WISH Foundation - Leader in Womens Sports - 2016