Bridger coach bids an emotional farewell

Alastair Baker
News Editor
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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Photos by Alastair Baker
Wayne Moorman, who coached Bridger volleyball for 40 years, at the Bridger High School athletes awards banquet last week where he said his farewell.

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The jacket says it all; Bridger volleyball coach Wayne Moorman’s history of success.

If reaching a State volleyball final is a rollercoaster ride of emotions then hanging up your boots after 32 years of coaching is even more so as witnessed at the Bridger High School athlete awards banquet last week. Both students and parents alike gave retiring coach Wayne Moorman a tearful standing ovation as he drew a line across his career. 

Coach Moorman, who has taken the Bridger volleyball program from near extinction to a formidable force in the Class C world, announced his retirement after the State C championship games in Bozeman Nov. 10. 

At the banquet four days later he bid farewell to the role that has seen him, his assistants, including Robin Smith and Lena Kallevig, and his numerous squads down the years, pick up 19 District titles, 12 Divisional titles and 10 State titles and all since 1990.

Smith is also retiring this season and Kallevig is set to take over the reins.

Moorman began his departing speech by thanking his wife, Barbara, who “has stuck by me through thick and thin.” 

“We started this journey together with our girls. She was my bookkeeper, and my manager, checked the locker rooms and made sure the girls were behaving themselves. I appreciated that. She did it for nothing. She did it because she loves me,” said Moorman.

He talked of the early days, of how he could remember his first day at school going into 1st grade and even his graduation day and equated it to his first day’s managing the volleyball program at Bridger. 

“I can remember the first time we had a volleyball match. The girls were excited, we were ready to go, and I looked up in stands and how many people do you think there were in the stands? One. A faithful mother had shown up,” he said. 

By the time of the last State Championship games “we had a whole stand full, a lot of crazy Bridger people,” said Moorman. 

“I had the opportunity to start this when nobody cared, and now I see a great deal care and that is a credit to the parents, the faculty and people in general. They upped it,” he said. “Bridger got on the ball, they decided it was important to play and they’ve done quite well.” 

During the discourse, he set down what is familiar to his staff and teams, a ‘Moormanism’ as several players called it, where he’d tell a little story to stress a point. So in keeping to the order of things, Moorman talked of a journalist sent to Africa to interview Dr. Livingston.

“When he asked ‘Well Mr. Livingston what was the most exciting time you’ve had with these people?’ He responded 'it was in the journey,'” said Moorman. “Young ladies you’re on a journey and I trust you will enjoy it. I look back at all the things God has allowed me to accomplish, to achieve. It was in the journey of doing it, the enjoyment, the caring and the sharing and it was fun. I thank the Bridger school for giving me this journey.”

“It has been a great time for me. Next year I trust things will work out well for the team and the incoming coach,” he said in parting. 

Moorman started at Bridger High School approximately 49 years ago coming from Roundup where he was an elementary teacher teaching 5th and 6th graders as well as coaching. 

He moved from Roundup he explained in an interview later because he said he could make better money at the lumberyard. 

“I had dirt under my fingernails and wanted to ranch and found a place near Bridger. It was 320 acres and we’ve expanded through the years.” He said. “I taught again. To support my hobby, ranching.”

At the time he said Montana was in the midst of a transition for athletes as they introduced volleyball and were trying to equalize the sports for both boys and girls. “I had a daughter in high school and she wanted to play volleyball and I said I would help and they said ‘you just take over,’” he laughed.  “I had a wonderful time. Enjoyable time to spend it with your children.”

This was in 1986 and four years later came the first success, a triple crown of sorts, winning Districts, Divisionals and State. 

As to explaining the success achieved, Moorman couldn’t think of anything suffice to say he was “trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else.”

“My key is a lot of repetition of drills whether it’s passing, digging, hitting. I tried to arrange as many different drills that you have to use in those skill areas and kept the girls improved. There is a lot better quality of girl athletes now,” he said. “I remember if you got them to jump three inches off the ground, some could but the majority were really landlocked, I think they got nosebleeds.”

With the sports science that has grown over the past decades in place, Moorman saw performances improve. 

“Now I have girls with jumps of 25 inches, almost 30 inches. It’s a big improvement and I see this in the youngsters, they are all into a better approach and knowing what they can do and can’t do. Take the younger ones, the 7th and 8th graders, you try to get them to make the right approach and get into the air, and jump, it is very frightening to them but as they progress, some of those girls are astounding, great athletes and they can run and jump as well as the boys. It’s just like soccer in the United States, the women seem to be sweeping out the men.”

Although he hopes he has “influenced some to become a better lady” he remains modest and self-deprecation despite the tangible adoration towards him that exists in the present and from the past. 

“I came home last week. I got a letter from my first class I ever taught in Roundup. A response from a little girl, she has to be well into her 50s, sharing with me her feelings and what I helped that little group of kids with. It was very tender,” he said. 

The “little girl” isn’t alone in her love and respect for Moorman. It is simply everywhere.  


Please see page 6 for players and coaches thoughts on Coach Moorman.