Boys volleyball at Franklin Community High School has existed for 15 seasons and 412 matches.
Kat Sarles had a front-row seat for every block, serve and dig.
Sarles, the only head coach in program history, decided to make this past season her last. Her 267-145 (.648) record includes qualifying for the state finals — or final eight teams — three of the last four years.
Only 40, Sarles, who teaches U.S. government and world history at the high school, now turns her attention to becoming more involved with Franklin’s athletics department as a whole.
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“I started coaching when I was 18. I took some club teams from Cincinnati to nationals and that sort of thing, and have 22 years under the belt,” Sarles said. “We’ve established a cultural presence here at Franklin high school.
“And because I’m in the high school, my hope is to lend auxiliary support to the program.”
With approximately 40 high school boys club volleyball programs throughout Indiana, it’s not close to becoming a sanctioned sport by the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
Nonetheless, Franklin’s program established itself as a recognized force and has sustained that reputation with eight state tournament appearances since 2005.
Programs the Grizzly Cubs play during the regular season include Roncalli, Columbus North, Southport, Columbus East, Brownsburg and Cathedral.
This year’s Franklin team, captained by seniors Cole Miller and Juan Sundheimer and junior Hunter Gross, produced a 23-4 record. It advanced all the way to the final four — one spot shy of the program’s all-time best finish of third in 2008.
Sarles credits former Franklin student Ryan Waggoner for coming up with the idea of starting a boys volleyball program.
“I was actually approached by Ryan, who was a freshman that year (2002-03). He said he was interested in starting a program here at Franklin and asked if I would coach it,” Sarles said.
“At the time I was teaching and was an assistant in the girls volleyball program here.”
Gradually, the number of participants increased.
The Cubs have been able to put both a varsity and junior varsity product on the court every season with the exception of the first one.
A halfback/defensive back for the school’s varsity football team, the 5-foot-9 Miller viewed volleyball as the ideal springtime activity.
“The reason I play is one year we were doing football conditioning in the off-season, running around, and I thought it looked fun. I tried out the next day and made the team,” said Miller, adding he’ll miss playing for Sarles.
“She is very passionate about winning, which is a good thing. She has that balance of when to push us and when to be there for us.”
Sarles was not much older than the players she was coaching the first few seasons of Franklin boys volleyball.
Her coaching style evolved over her tenure.
“Early on in my career it was a lot closer to being a player’s coach because I was closer to their age. Now my players know that I care about them and that I’m invested in them in the classroom, on the court and in their personal lives,” Sarles said. “There is a separation today.
“There’s a balance between being vocal on the floor and being able to build players up. I think I blend both. I’ve very purposeful both in a vocal way and in a quiet way.”
THE SARLES FILE
Name: Kat Sarles
Born: Alton, Illinois
Family: Parents, Chuck Sarles and Donna Dixon
High school: Glendale H.S. (Springfield, Missouri) – 1994
College: Ball State University – 1998
Major: Secondary Education
Head coach: Kat Sarles
Assistant coaches: Jeff Sewell, Sarah Records, Craig Harvey
STATE TOURNAMENT APPEARANCES
Program Record: 267-145