Prep Volleyball

Coach of the Year: Kerr's sunny disposition helps Southeastern rise to top again

Southeastern coach Tim Kerr watches a play during the Class 1A regional championship game against Unity at Brown County HIgh School on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 3, 2016 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 3, 2016 2:17 am

AUGUSTA, Ill. -- Kolby McClelland doesn't want anyone to mistake her laughter for embarrassment.

"That's not the case at all," she said. "But you can't help but laugh at Coach Kerr for some of the things he does."

Tim Kerr does plenty to bring joy to the game, and most of the time, it's what he does away from the game the Southeastern volleyball players enjoy most.

"When we go out in public with him, it's really funny," said McClelland, the all-state middle blocker who started four seasons for Kerr. "If we go to a restaurant, he'll talk to people randomly. He'll just strike up a conversation and talk about whatever is on his mind.

"We laugh all the time. It's all so fun. He's just a really fun coach."

You could argue he's one of the best coaches this area has ever seen, too.

Kerr led the Lady Suns to their fourth straight 30-victory season this fall as Southeastern became the only area school to reach the sectional finals. Along the way, he won his 500th career match, led the Lady Suns to their third straight regional championship and 11th regional title in his tenure and earned Herald-Whig Coach of the Year honors for the third time.

"It's such a blessing for me that somehow we're able to put six kids on the floor who know what they're doing," Kerr said. "They happen to be talented enough. And I've thought of this a lot: The talent is going to run out, and we're going to be average or below average.

"But for whatever reason, we're still able to win a regional and have success and get kids to buy into how we do things."

Kerr is the reason.

He was an inexperienced volleyball coach when he started in 1997 -- he coached basketball, softball and golf prior to that -- and his technical background might not be as impressive as others, but Xs and Os aren't why Kerr's teams have been so successful.

It's the heart and soul he puts into the program.

"He's great at working with players," McClelland said. "It's how he cares for us. He really wants the best for us. He knows how to show that and tell you that as a coach."

He's proven he knows the game well, too.

A Southeastern graduate who is now the high school principal, Kerr's first introduction to volleyball came on the sand volleyball courts while playing alongside his parents. In fact, he remembers going against Unity coach Seth Klusmeyer in those sand volleyball tournaments back in the day.

That's where his love for the sport was born and his unique ability to hit came from.

In fact, he's showcased that a time or two in practice.

"I don't think he ever hit with us when we were in seventh or eighth grade, or at least I don't remember it," McClelland said. "I remember he got up and hit during our freshman year. I didn't know he could do that.

"I'd always joke with him, 'Oh, wow, the old man still has it.'"

Kerr's appreciates that comment, namely because it shows the level of comfortability he has with his players and that they grasp the fun-loving nature of the game.

"You can't be wrapped up in it so much that you don't enjoy the moments," Kerr said. "You have to be able to take that step back and appreciate when your team is playing well. I've gotten better at that."

It's easier to do when your team piles up victories in record fashion.

Over the past four seasons, the Lady Suns have gone 134-16 despite significant graduation losses each season. As Kerr went through the players he's seen come and go, he was reminded of a moment a few years back when the Lady Suns were prepping to have T-shirts printed for a summer camp, and they decided to use the motto "tradition never graduates."

He's true believer of that these days.

"It's something we kind of hang our hat on," Kerr said.

He's been blessed to have incredible talent like McClelland, who is headed to Murray State and graduates ranked second in Illinois High School Association history in career kills, but he realizes the team success is because of the ability to cultivate talent at every spot.

"Volleyball is a weird sport because it's a magnet for weaker players," Kerr said. "Eventually, the ball is going to come to them. How many times do you see that? It really does take six quality kids on the floor. I felt we had that."

And the Lady Suns had the right attitude, something directly related to Kerr's disposition.

"He yells at us when he needs to, but he doesn't over-yell at us," McClelland said. "He truly makes playing the game fun."