Posted On: 10/23/17 11:52 AM

Caricature Credit: Bill Dunn – Grand Island Independent 


As it became apparent Grand Island Central Catholic coach Sharon Zavala was going to reach the 1,000-win milestone in her career this season, the struggle to find the right words and way to describe a coach and an achievement so remarkable overwhelmed me.

Finally, a simple truth came to me. I’m not qualified nor capable of trying to put into words what it means to have reached 1,000 career wins in Nebraska high school volleyball. There are, however, plenty of people who are.

So, to commemorate Zavala’s incredible accomplishment, a handful or two of high school and college coaches across the state were asked to reflect on Zavala and her accomplishment and share their thoughts. Below is an alphabetical list of those coaches and what they had to say.

Gretna coach Mike Brandon

“Sharon hitting 1,000 career wins is a testament to how hard she works to stay educated about the game and a willingness to adapt to the changes. It’s also a sign that she truly loves the game. Coaching a sport that is and has been so competitive for so long takes a mental and physical toll and very few people have the desire to coach for longer than 10 years, let alone the 43 years she’s been doing it. On a personal level, she has been a great mentor. I didn’t know many people in the high school coaching community coming from a playing background and was lucky enough to have had her as a teacher in high school. I called her, went to her summer activities, watched her coach and asked her a lot of questions. She introduced me to other coaches and was very giving with her time. Many of the things she taught me are still foundations of my program. Gretna owes much of its success to her. When I have a GICC player on my Nebraska Juniors club teams, there’s a strong motivation to help them max out their potential not only because of her influence, but out of a sense of gratitude to her. She’s an extraordinary coach and an even better person. She is a huge reason volleyball in Nebraska is so strong.” 

Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth

“Coach Zavala epitomizes what type of coach you’d want your child to play for.  Great at the X’s and O’s, but is building her players as people.  We are very fortunate to have her coaching and mentoring our young women here in Nebraska.  Looking forward to watching her win her next 1,000!”

Hastings College coach Matt Buttermore

“I can’t even begin to put something into words now that I think about it. One of the things that’s always impressed me, after all these years she’s still interested in the game and still seeks out new knowledge. I think she’s been to our coaching clinic every year, but maybe one. Even our first year when we hadn’t even won a match at Hastings! I’m sure she was there to listen to the more experienced coaches, but was always impressed by that.“ 

Kearney Catholic coach Kris Conner

“I have the utmost respect for Coach Zavala.  She has established an amazing legacy at GICC full of successful seasons and stories.  To be committed for so many years and to have that kind of success is truly remarkable and rare.  When I was in high school in Cedar Rapids, I remember seeing and hearing all the news about GICC and can remember thinking way back then they were untouchable (and they were!).  Now, as adversaries, I respect her even more.  We’ve had some great matches over the years and I always enjoy talking with Sharon before and after the matches.  She’s a true class act. She brings a high level of competitiveness, character, and energy to the game of volleyball.  She’s helped promote the game to a very high level in our state and I highly respect her for all the adversity she’s overcome and the accolades she’s earned. Congrats, Coach Zavala!  Well deserved.”

Nebraska coach John Cook

“Over the years the high school coaches in this state have been exceptional.  Sharon Zavala continues to prove she is among the elite coaches. 1,000 wins is a milestone that most young coaches can’t even imagine. We all love and admire sustained excellence in any field. Sharon is a proven winner and one of the reasons Nebraska Volleyball in this state is considered a state treasure.” 

Wisner-Pilger coach Jean Groth

“She is an accomplished teacher of the game, and yet remains a student of the game.  Michelangelo was credited with the phrase “ancora imparo” which is Latin for “I am still learning.”  He has been said to pen that phrase after painting the Sistine Chapel.  At any given volleyball coaching clinic, Coach Zavala can be found with pen in hand – trying to stay current in the sport. In regards to necessities for longevity in the sport, I feel that family and spousal support are an integral part of the mix.  I believe that every successful coach, has a coach at home to assist them. Coach Zavala has that entity also. The third string of the braid, I see passion for the game of volleyball manifested in everything that Coach Zavala does.”

Ansley-Litchfield coach Pat Hoblyn

“Sharon has stood the test of time and continues to thrive in a sport she loves.  She has great knowledge of the sport and invests that time and knowledge in her athletes. Sharon’s passion has instilled a love and appreciation for game in her students that continues long after graduation.  Kudos—Sharon on a great career.  Congratulations.”

Aurora coach Lois Hixson

“It takes many strong qualities to lead student athletes in over four decades. Those qualities include, integrity, perseverance, and a deeply rooted desire to make student athletes be the best that they can be on and off the court. Sharon has demonstrated those qualities consistently throughout her career. Here is a back-in-the-day story: During the 1984 season, the Wood River Eagles and GICC were common opponents and in the same Class B district. I might have been one of the girls wearing purple that season, and winning one set vs. GICC became a highlight for our senior class. So, it has been unique to have played on teams vs. GICC and then become a coaching colleague in central Nebraska.”

Wayne State coach Scott Kneifl

“To reach 1,000 wins is an amazing feat! I have a ton of respect for Coach Zavala and how she goes about coaching student-athletes. To reach 1,000 wins in anything is remarkable, but to do it in the sport of volleyball, in a state that thrives on our game, speaks for itself. I’m very happy for her, and all of the great student-athletes she has had an opportunity to coach over the years! Congratulations Coach Zavala!”

Former Lincoln Pius X coach Jake Moore

“Sharon Zavala has been such an excellent role model for so many athletes and coaches throughout her career.  I was fortunate enough to have worked a camp for Sharon at GICC and I thoroughly enjoyed my time out there.  I have served on coaching panels with her in the past and her wisdom and guidance have helped so many!!  It is hard to fathom someone reaching 1,000 wins in a coaching career in the high school ranks, but if anyone has weathered the ups and downs and ins and outs of coaching over the years, it is Sharon…huge congrats to her on this historic achievement!!!  She has set the standard very high and it may be a long, long time…if ever…before someone may approach and/or pass this milestone that she continues to set!” 

Ogallala coach Steve Morgan

“Sharon’s success comes with the love of the sport of volleyball and her incredible ability to work with young people. To stay in high school coaching for the length of time she has takes someone very special. Sharon is top shelf and her name represents Nebraska Volleyball at the highest level. Congratulations, Sharon, and God Bless.”

Grand Island coach Bill Root

“I’ve known Sharon for over 30 years,  it’s pretty obvious Sharon runs a great program. She’s a fierce competitor, has a lot of ​passion for the game of volleyball, and​ really cares about the well-being of her players.”

Grand Island Northwest coach Diane Rouzze

“I admire Sharon Zavala very much. To coach that long and to be successful year after year is amazing. Coaching is hard and to be a wife, mom, grandma, teacher, coach, etc., is a tribute to her. I also want to send a shout out to her husband Vince for being so supportive of Sharon and attending all her volleyball events. I send Sharon my warmest congratulations as this is a remarkable accomplishment. Thank you for your tireless efforts, many hours, and years of service to the great game of volleyball.”

Nebraska-Omaha coach Rose Shires

“Sharon Zavala is a proven winner as a coach and as a person. She has consistently won many matches and championships over the years and is always a top contender regardless of class. The thing that has always impressed me about Sharon Zavala is she has always made it about her players. She teaches them discipline, hard work, her teams always have a very high volleyball IQ and they understand how to play well as a team. GICC has been a perennial volleyball power in the State of Nebraska because of Coach Sharon Zavala.”

Nebraska-Kearney coach Rick Squiers

“Sharon Zavala represents everything that is great about high school sports.  The only thing comparable to her program’s consistency of excellence, is the class she has demonstrated along the way.  I have had the privilege to coach a number of Sharon’s GICC graduates.  In addition to being very skilled volleyball players, they hold themselves to an extremely high standard on and off the court.  Her impact on the game, her school, and each of her student athletes is immeasurable.  Warmest congrats to her on this amazing accomplishment.”

Hampton coach Diane Torson

“Sharon has so much passion and love for volleyball. Sharon is so successful because she is a life-long learner as she is always finding ways to improve herself and her team.  She uses volleyball to teach her player lessons they will need to be successful in life…some of which are commitment, desire, effort and teamwork. So much could be said about Sharon as she is a very humble, dedicated coach who is living her dream.”

Archbishop Bergan coach Sue Wewel

“As I have observed Sharon not just through the years, but through the decades, I am in awe of the dynasty that she has created. Coaches who are in it for a long, long time, in order to be successful, surround themselves with assistant coaches who have the same values and philosophies, and each and every student-athlete that walks through their gym doors know the expectations and the tradition within their system. Great coaches also evolve with their program through the years and have a great passion for their sport.  Congratulations to Sharon for her milestone , and to her  past and present players who dedicated themselves to this great coach over the years. What an inspiring accomplishment!!”