Schram’s legacy far greater than 600 volleyball wins

Maryville College volleyball coach Kandis Schram waves to the crowd at Cooper Athletic Center last Wednesday after claiming her 600th win as coach.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville College volleyball coach Kandis Schram waves to the crowd at Cooper Athletic Center last Wednesday after claiming her 600th win as coach.

Just as the magnitude of last Wednesday night was finally sinking in, Kandis Schram checked her Facebook page.

The winningest coach in Maryville College history in any sport, Schram collected her 600th win as the school’s volleyball coach when the Scots dispatched Covenant in straight sets in the home opener at Cooper Athletic Center. Later that evening, Schram checked her Facebook wall. On it was a message from former Scot Kathi Downs, a member of Schram’s first team at Maryville.

“She said, ‘Pipe down; I was there for the first one,’” Schram said. “That’s what makes it fun.”

Schram has compiled a stunning resume at Maryville, one that crosses generations and includes a lot more than just volleyball. The question was put to several of her friends and players after Maryville’s 3-0 shutout of Transylvania on Monday: Could Schram get to 1,000?

She’s closer than you might think.

She’s plenty young enough. Schram became the Maryville coach two seasons after graduating from the school in 1985, and volleyball hasn’t been the only sport she’s coached there. She was the Maryville softball coach for several seasons until the mid 1990s. The NCAA doesn’t track statistics for slow-pitch, the way the game was played at Maryville and other Division III programs for all but Schram’s last season as softball coach.

“If you counted softball, I’d be close,” said Schram, who also serves as the school’s athletics director.

The wins pale in comparison to the number of lives Schram has impacted at Maryville. From current players like senior outside hitter Kristin Findley to senior libero Katherine Nadler to current Maryville assistant coach Jesse Zabal, it’s so much bigger than numbers.

Findley, the reigning Great South Athletic Conference Player of the Year, began receiving recruiting inquiries from Schram while still in the womb. Findley’s mother, Donna Owens Findley, was a Hall of Fame player at Maryville and Schram’s former teammate. After graduation, they roomed together.

When Findley and her husband, David, announced Kristin was on the way, Schram opened the recruiting right away.

“When we first found out it was a girl, she (Schram) said, ‘You know she’s mine,’” Donna Findley said.

It was evident by middle school that Kristin had her mother’s talents for the game: height, hops and a rocket-launcher right arm. When it came time for college, Kristin said Schram insisted she choose Maryville for the right reasons.

“Honestly, it was the school,” Findley said, “just because she didn’t push me to come here.”

“We talked a lot,” Schram said. “I tried to really make it OK for her to go somewhere else. I said, ‘Kris, this is all about you.’”

Still, when it came time to pick a jersey number at Maryville, guess which one Kristin Findley chose?

“No. 10 was Kandi’s number,” Donna Findley said. “She didn’t take my number; she took Kandi’s.”

Findley and she have never had a problem with where the line is when it comes to the coach/player relationship, Schram said. When they’re in the gym, it’s volleyball. When they’re not, Kristin becomes “Kris.”

“There’s never been a gray area,” Schram said. “I’m coach Schram when I’m here and I’m aunt Kandi outside the lines. She’s a selfless player. She loves her teammates. She really knows what it’s about to be part of a team.”

You don’t win 600 games without a lot of awfully good players through the years, but Schram recruits more than simply talented athletes, Zabal said. Like so many in attendance last Wednesday, Zabal is a former Scot.

“I was on the sideline as a player for (No.) 500 in 2006,” she said. “Now, I’m on the sideline assisting her for 600.”

Schram’s recruiting pitch hasn’t changed much through the years. She sells Maryville every bit as much as she does volleyball, Zabal said. When freshmen put on a Maryville uniform for the first time, they become “her babies,” she said. Just don’t arrive expecting to be coddled.

“It’s true,” Zabal said. “She takes care of us, but she doesn’t baby us. It’s that feeling of coming into something that’s comfortable. She recruits the kind of player who’s interested in more than just volleyball.”

In 26 seasons as coach, Schram has seen only one campaign, 2010, finish with a sub-.500 record. There was a compelling reason.

If there’s an essential element to Schram’s coaching it’s in getting her players to push themselves, Donna Findley said. That first year, Schram wasn’t much older than her players. There was so much to learn. To close the gap, Schram attended every seminar and coaching clinic she could, peppering her peers for information.

“She pushed herself to learn the game,” Donna Findley said. “She actually went to the seminars and learned. She made herself learn as much as she could.”

The wins are great, but Schram wants Maryville to be a player on the national stage. The only way there is to schedule the nation’s best teams. Two years ago, Schram began frontloading Maryville’s pre-conference schedule with opponents from the previous season’s NCAA tournament field, including programs like Division III national champion Emory University.

Maryville took its lumps a year ago, but there are already signs the approach is yielding the desired results. Maryville’s shutout of Transylvania supplied a significant dose of perspective. Hanover (Ind.) College, one of the nation’s top Division III programs, defeated Maryville in five, hotly-contested games, 25-14, 25-21, 22-25, 23-25, 15-11, in the season’s second match. Transylvania has beaten Hanover.

“They (the Scots) are going to get even better this year because they’re buying in,” Schram said.

Schram didn’t talk much about the approach of No. 600 last week, but the Scots were well aware of what was at stake, Nadler said.

“That was so cool,” she said. “We kind of heard there was something planned, so we said, ‘Guys, you have to win this game.’”

At match point, a jubilant crowd raised flyers that had been distributed at the door, each proclaiming the figure “600.”

The toughened schedule withstanding, last season was anything but acceptable, Nadler said. She’d love to see Schram reach 1,000. It’s doable, she said, whether the softball wins are added or not.

“If we have more years like we’re supposed to have, it wouldn’t take that long,” she said.

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