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Coach Arnie Ball will have a challenge as he is formally inducted into one of volleyball's most prestigious halls of fame.
Well in advance of Thursday afternoon's induction ceremony, the American Volleyball Coaches Association contacted Ball and requested he keep his acceptance speech to about four minutes.
It's a self-admitted challenge to stay within that time allotment for a coach who could talk endlessly about volleyball and the people who helped him earn the Hall of Fame honor.
Challenges and overcoming them, though, have been the norm for Ball.
The legendary IPFW men's volleyball coach in the last 40 years took a sport that few people in Fort Wayne knew about and turned it into one of college's most popular sports. He also built that Mastodons program from scratch with limited resources and led it to more than 500 wins and six Final Four appearances.
Ball will be one of four people inducted into the American Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame as part of its 2012 class on Thursday in Louisville, Ky.
"It's an honor to be given this award on behalf of all the people I've had a chance to work with for the last 45 years," Ball said. "For my players, my wife and my kids, just everyone who's made major sacrifices so I can beat this silly ball around."
Ball is entering his 33rd season as IPFW's head coach -- the longest tenure for any active NCAA men's volleyball head coach in the nation -- and has guided the Mastodons to five conference championships. In addition, in March 2011 he became the second coach in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association's history to accumulate 500 career wins.
Despite all his accomplishments, Ball said he was surprised when it was announced in June that the AVCA selected him for its Hall of Fame.
"I think all people who receive this type recognition from anywhere are surprised," he said. "I don't think you do this thing for as long as I've done to get in the Hall of Fame. You do it because it's what you love to do."
Ball becomes the third men's volleyball head coach since 2005 to be inducted the AVCA Hall of Fame. In addition, he is fourth coach from the MIVA to be selected to the Hall of Fame. Among MIVA coaches in the Hall of Fame is former Ball State coach Don Shondell, Ball's college coach who helped introduce him to volleyball in the 1960s.
This will not be the first time Ball will receive a top award from the AVCA for his coaching success. Ball received AVCA NCAA Division I-II National Coach of the Year in 2007 after IPFW upset Ohio State in the MIVA Tournament championship match and then reached NCAA championship match for the first time in program history.
The Mastodons under Ball have produced 15 All-American players and two Olympians -- including Ball's son, Lloy, who as the starting setter led United States to the gold medal in 2008.
Along with his success in men's volleyball, Ball won multiple championships coaching women's volleyball teams. Ball spent eight seasons as the IPFW women's volleyball head coach in the 1980s and led the Mastodons to four Great Lakes Valley Conference championships while compiling 231-102 career record.
Ball said being inducted into the Hall of Fame will be an exciting experience, especially with his family and friends he made through volleyball being in attendance. The coach also said it's a significant honor for him after all the years he's spent on the sidelines.
“Someone told me the other day when you are around long enough they either honor you or bury you,” Ball said. “I'm excited about this choice instead of the either.”