Sue Sinclair’s career as a volleyball player and coach will come full circle this week in Minneapolis.
She will be part of the 16th American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame class on Thursday during ceremonies that will be part of the NCAA Final Four festivities and the AVCA annual convention.
"It’s a bit overwhelming," Sinclair said. "It came as a complete surprise. I just didn’t expect anything like this ever."
Sinclair, who was a standout player at Southern Illinois, has been the volleyball coach at Illinois Central College for 29 years, amassing more than 900 victories. She has coached 32 all-Americans and 82 players who have gone on to play at 58 different universities in 19 different states.
Her teams have made 18 appearances in the NJCAA national tournament, and the Cougars won the national championship in 2009.
"It’s an incredible honor, but there’s a lot of irony to a lot of the pieces of it," said Sinclair, who is also the ICC athletic director. "I was present during the very first class of induction, which was in 2003.
"Debbie Hunter, who coached me at SIU-Carbondale, was in that first class. Her last year at SIU-Carbondale was my last year of playing there. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever anticipate that I would be going into the same hall of fame as her at any point in time."
Sinclair was working on her PhD at SIU when she got a call from Lorene Ramsey. The longtime ICC coach told Sinclair that the school was looking for a head volleyball coach, assistant softball coach, and assistant AD under Carroll Herman.
"My original thought was that I would teach and do research at a university. I didn’t really think about coaching," Sinclair said. "But the only think I had ever done as a job was coaching volleyball. As I went through college, I coached every summer in camps in Illinois, Missouri and Michigan. So when she called, I was intrigued, and I landed here."
In 1998, Sinclair was named women’s AD and volleyball coach. After Herman retired, she became the school’s AD.
Besides victories, Sinclair also has produced a few volleyball coaches at various levels, including several in the Peoria area.
Tara Toepke Ballard, who played for Sinclair at ICC in 2004-05, was a two-time all-American for the Cougars and is now head coach at Metamora.
"One of the things that I admire most about her as a coach is that she just makes it feel like you are part of a big family," Ballard said. "That’s had one of the biggest impacts on me. The camaraderie and family atmosphere is something that I want for my teams. And I know that she genuinely cared for me as a person."
But coaching wasn’t all that Sinclair has contributed to the sport.
"I feel like it’s not just win-loss record or a national championship," she said. "I have served in association capacities as the coaches’ association president for the NJCAA, served on AVCA board of directors, and served in the USA Volleyball board of directors.
"I am also what I would consider to be the first NJCAA career coach. There may be somebody on that list who maybe was at an NJCAA community college for a couple of years, but did not make their career at one. I think I was blown away that I did get selected, because there are not that many two-year college coaches in it."
Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.