November 29, 2021 at 8:35 p.m.
But Klaphake was up at 4:30 a.m. ready to milk his 70 cows and do chores on his 640-acre farm southwest of Sauk Centre. The farm also includes 200 Holstein steers, 30 beef cows, 250 acres of corn, 150 acres of soybean, 140 acres of alfalfa and the remainder in small grains.
Klaphake is in his 18th year of coaching high school volleyball. A former standout football player at Sauk Centre High School, he tossed his hat into the rink when the volleyball job became available.
“I played some co-ed and mens league volleyball and pretty much learned the game from that,” said Klaphake, 56. “The year before, I was hired to coach 16-year-olds (Junior Olympic) volleyball. That was the extent of my coaching experience before I was a head coach.”
It was a tough decision for a dairy farmer to commit the time and effort to run a successful volleyball program. But Klaphake had three young daughters coming up, and the program was without a coach.
“I remember my mom and dad saying there’s no way you can be successful at them both,” he recalled of his consideration of the job. “You can’t be gone that much from farming and still have a successful farm. They were also worried about the volleyball program. They said, ‘What makes you think you can coach? You’re a dairy farmer.’”
Both of Klaphake’s parents have since passed away, but they were able to witness their son coach their granddaughters to high levels of success over the years. In 18 years of coaching, his teams have won 447 matches, four section titles and most recently a state title.
But, he could not have done it without help.
“The biggest thing was to have someone do chores and to do the milking at night,” he said.
Practices ran from 3 to 5:30 p.m., and when there were matches, they began at 6 p.m. and lasted until close to 9 p.m. If the match was on the road, it sometimes meant leaving home at 3:15 p.m. and not getting home until close to 11 p.m.
“Through the years, I have had some really good people help me do chores at night,” Klaphake said. “But every morning, I do chores, and every weekend and all summer. I kind of bank up the chores until the volleyball season.”
It does not just take support in the barn but also in the house. Klaphake’s wife, Carol, has been supportive of his commitment to the volleyball program and coaching their three daughters, all whom are now graduated. Daughters Jena and Jill both helped with the program this season, with Jill serving as junior varsity and assistant varsity coach. Jena was instrumental as well, until she had her first child this fall. Megan is attending college and plays volleyball there.
“From the word go, Carol has always been supportive,” Klaphake said. “When fall comes, I just am not around much except for breakfast and supper.”
Klaphake said there are several similarities between running a dairy farm and coaching a team.
“One, in both farming and coaching, if you want to be successful, you have to work really hard,” he said. “Two, you have to decide between the things you want to do and the things you have to do. And three, you need good help. You can’t do it by yourself. And through the years, I have had some great help on the farm and on the court.”
Klaphake said having six brothers, four of them who farm and are always willing to lend a hand, has been a major help in allowing him to spend time at the volleyball court.
Farmers, he said, never run out of things to do, and the same can be said for coaching.
“You just have to prioritize,” he said.
Looking back, he said he would not change a thing.
“There’s been some sacrifice,” he said. “But coaching my three daughters has been great. Coaching all these kids has been a lot of fun.”
Klaphake has been able to maintain success on both the farm and on the court while making a positive impact on the youth in his community. It is a testament showing that dairy farmers, with proper prioritization and support, can do things away from the farm to help further fulfill their lives.
When asked if he is going to retire from coaching now that he has a state title to his credit and his three daughters have graduated, Klaphake said no.
“When the feeling of wanting to win subsides, I’ll be done,” he said. “I want to win now every bit as much as I did when my daughters played.”
Competing on the court, much like farming, is in his blood.
“It’s a heck of a commitment, but I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “I enjoy the heck out of both of them.”
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