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Coach nears historic 400th victory

October 4, 2007

In the midst of her 16th year at UW-River Falls, Falcon volleyball head coach Patti Ford is approaching a milestone, her 400th career victory. 

Originally from Sioux Falls, S.D., Ford attended Mount Marty College in Yankton, S.D., where she received her undergraduate degree in health, physical education and recreation in 1983.

Following graduation she got her first teaching job at Shanley High School in Fargo, N.D. She was the head volleyball coach there as well as coaching basketball and track and field.

Ford said she began coaching because she “enjoyed the intimate atmosphere of teaching a sport to accomplish something more outside of the classroom.”

Ford never played volleyball – she played basketball in college – but she said at Shanley she “really caught onto volleyball.”

While at Shanley her teams compiled a volleyball record of 201-63 and won state championships in 1988 and 1991. In 1991 she was also named North Dakota Coach of the Year and the East Regional Coach of the Year.

Ford left Shanley after the 1991 season and began work at North Dakota State on her master’s degree, which she earned in 1994 in education/physical education.

“I was around a very good core of volleyball people to help guide my career,” Ford said of her time at North Dakota State.

“[Ford] has a lot of information to give to the team and knows a lot of strategy and how to teach the skills of the game,” outside hitter Courtney Schroeder said in an e-mail interview.

Ford’s first year coaching at UWRF was in 1992. The team finished in seventh place with a 2-6 record in the WIAC and 12-22 overall. They improved quickly. In 1993 they had an overall record of 23-14 despite finishing 1-7 in the WIAC.

Since 1993, the team has not finished any lower than fifth in the WIAC.

By 1995 the Falcons had become a very strong team under Ford. They finished third in the conference with a 6-2 record and went 38-7 overall. The 38 wins set a Falcon record and Ford received WIAC Coach of the Year. 

In 1996 they won the WIAC title and would go on to win titles in 1999, 2002 and 2003. 

The Falcons finished strong last year with a 24-13 overall record, but they have struggled some this year after six seniors from last year’s team graduated.

“Not only does [Ford] care about our success on the court, she expects that we do well in all other aspects of our lives as well, such as in school,” Schroeder said.

Ford is also the assistant athletic director at UWRF. She is in charge of the day-to-day operations of events, oversees the student athlete advisory committee and makes sure the athletics department stays in compliance with NCAA regulations.

“[Ford] is invaluable in that she handles the winter sports game administration, and is one of the primary sources in student athlete eligibility,” athletic director Rick Bowen said.

On her upcoming milestone, Ford said “I think it’s a great tribute to all the people who have come into this program and who have given the same amount of heart and desire to keep it successful.”

The Falcons will play their next match at noon Oct. 6 at UW-La Crosse.