Lewis' Friend celebrates coaching milestone
Even after recording 400 career wins as a volleyball coach, Dan Friend said he is still looking for the secret of winning that fifth game.
His impressive victory mark suggests he knows more about that secret than most, however.
Friend recently hit the milestone by leading the Lewis University men's team to a 3-1 win over NJIT on Jan. 7 in Romeoville.
When asked what he loves most about coaching, Friend told the Will County Gazette in an email interview that the best parts are the relationships with the players, teammates, fellow coaches and “people in general around the sport.”
“It is truly a lifetime sport that people continue to play their whole lives,” he said.
Friend's volleyball journey began while growing up in Kansas. He said when he was about 13, his brother worked as a lifeguard at a beach that had a sand volleyball court. Usually, there would be some guys playing doubles or fours on the court, and Friend would watch them regularly.
Eventually, they asked him to play and he learned the game from there, he said.
That period was a big time for men's volleyball on an international scale, as well, with the United States team winning the Olympic gold in 1984 and 1988. Friend watched those teams closely, he said.
Friend's interest in volleyball went with him to college, where he got into aspects of the sport like coaching at the youth club level and volunteer coaching on the Washburn University women's team. He said those activities opened his eyes to coaching and mentoring.
“Once I got hooked, I knew this was something I would be involved in for the the rest of my life,” Friend said.
After he finished his undergrad degree at Washburn, he worked for a doctor and as a part-time assistant volleyball coach at the university. Friend did both jobs for about a year, he said, before turning his attention fully toward volleyball coaching.
“I like the idea of having flexibility in my work schedule and being around a sport I love everyday,” he said.
He continued to coach at Washburn while working on his master's at the University of Kansas. Once he completed his master's, Friend went on to found the first men's varsity volleyball program in the state when he started the Newman University program. According to lewisflyers.com, he got that program going in 2002, and guided it to the NAIA title match in its third season.
Friend also saw success in a three-year run in charge of the Newman women's team, getting at least 22 wins in each season. Overall at Newman, he posted a total record of 142-81, including a 66-40 mark with the men's team. He was inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame in 2013.
Friend's first 12 seasons at Lewis were also marked by an array of wins. Coming into this season, he had a 240-127 record with the Flyers, including the 2012 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association championship.
Additionally, Friend has worked for USA Volleyball, leading the men's junior national team in 2014 and 2015 and the boys' youth national team in 2012, as well as numerous assistant-coaching duties with other squads.
“I think I have improved in every area you could as a coach and continue to do so,” he said. “Some of my biggest areas ... have been my overall patience, maturity, knowledge of tactics and training, as well dealing with people.”
When asked about the impact of his 400th win, Friend said it means he has had the opportunity to coach great student-athletes.
He joked that he needs to coach about 25 more years to retire — which is OK with him.
“Not everyone gets to go to work everyday and do what they love,” he said.