UWRF Coach Profile: Patti Ford
Falcon volleyball head coach Patti Ford Friday October 4, 2013, at Karges Center. Kathy M Helgeson/University Communications
Falcons’ volleyball has been on a tear this season, starting out 12-1 before dropping two matches at the UWRF Falcon Invite this past weekend in newly-opened Page Arena. Coach Patti Ford has been with the program longer than her current players have been alive and has helped guide her team to their best start in over a decade.
Ford is the first in a series of Falcon coach profiles conducted by the Student Voice. The Voice sat down with Ford to discuss her history with the Falcons and the excitement of Page Arena’s first live games.
Q: How long have you been coaching at River Falls?
A: I’m entering my 26th season at UW-River Falls.
Q: What brought you to the program in the first place?
A: Right out of college I got a teaching job in Fargo, ND. I taught physical education and coached a variety of sports, volleyball being one of them. Volleyball was just beginning and we were a winter sport. I got called over by NDSU to see if I would want to be a grad assistant, and at that time I didn’t know volleyball would be a piece of my career path. I enjoyed my experiences at NDSU and then I started looking for positions and threw my name at River Falls. I thought it was a good place for me to start and they were making a commitment to full-time coaching. Twenty-six years later I’m still at River Falls and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Q: When did you first hear of plans for the Falcon Center?
A: It’s always been on the horizon since I’ve been here. We’ve gone through three or four levels of revision, but now the reality is where we are at now.
Q: Has the payoff of completion been what you expected?
A: It’s everything that I expected. It’s a beautiful structure and our first home match there was a good atmosphere. We’re going to be able to pack more students in and I think it’s transformed the whole campus. It’s done a great job for our health and human performance department and now we have a showcase for athletics all under one roof.
Q: How will the Falcon Center have an impact on the community and on recruits?
A: We have the number one facility in the Midwest right now at Division III. We now have something to sell this great campus as, because 10 years ago it was the University Center and now it’s the Falcon Center. It gives you a lot more pride and extends out into the community. They can now come and use the facility and that will bring them to games. You don’t have to tell a story about having the best facilities because it’s evident. On one end, it looks like Lifetime Fitness and on the other end looks like a 1-AA arena for volleyball. I run a lot of summer camps and it will expand the number of kids I can have because of having three more courts. It’s like moving into a new home after spending 25-plus years in our old home.
Q: How well do you think the first tournament in Page Arena went?
A: I think it went smooth. Falcon Operations Department takes the pressure off a coach and lets us just go in and coach. Volleyball has been one of those sports where we’ve helped with event management. But everyone who walked into the building was amazed. The volleyball community is pretty tight, so I took people on a lot of tours. It was a really good atmosphere.
Q: What’s the current team’s style of play?
A: Offensively we’re a lot faster and the tempo of the game is quicker. Our setting is good and our hitters are strong. We’ve always been strong on serving and passing and that’s our bread and butter. If we do that well, the rest of the match will take care of itself.
Q: What has given you the most fulfillment in your time at River Falls?
A: Seeing the growth of our Student Athletes. As they come in and move through their career academically and athletically, there’s so much growth that happens each year. If they can weather the storm throughout you see a very well-rounded individual who is going to go out and follow their passion. After having 25 years (of experience), I now see them as moms and professionals. I think that’s one of the benefits of coaching a long time. I was able to work a camp with one of my first recruits and see the progress of them moving through to great things.