In 1969, when Bob Michael left Fort Wayne to attend Indiana University, he had no idea that he was about to discover his life’s passion. After some friendly encouragement from his classmates at IU, Michael joined the volleyball team his junior year and fell in love with the game. More than 40 years later, he is enjoying playing more than ever.
Michael, now 62 and still living in Fort Wayne, recently won his second gold medal while competing in the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. These days Michael plays with Kings Mountain Fog, a team based in Northern California. The team won all 11 matches in straight sets, defeating their Southern California rivals, Roof, 25-14, 25-15 in the finals.
Three years ago we finished runner-up to Roof, Michael said. Last year at Huntsman we had to work our way back from being in the loser’s bracket and eventually went on to beat Roof and then Brazil in the finals. That gold was probably my favorite because we had to beat all the best teams on our way to the final.
The medals seem to come easily to Michael and his California-based team, but his volleyball career has a home in Fort Wayne.
After graduating from Concordia in 1969, Michael was recruited to play at Indiana, where he received his undergraduate degree in mathematics. While finishing his last year of graduate school he was recruited by IPFW volleyball coach Arnie Ball.
One of the reasons I was happy to come back to Fort Wayne was that I would be able to play with Arnie as well as Denny Johnson, Michael said. Being able to play on an open team for such a well-respected player was a highlight for me.
Playing for Ball’s open team also gave Michael the opportunity to begin his banking career. He is currently a senior vice president at IAB Financial Bank and works with many Fort Wayne-area businesses.
It was also during this time that Michael stumbled upon a coaching job. In 1975 his sister, Joyce Michael, was a member of the Concordia volleyball team and Michael attended many of her matches.
I like to tell people as a joke that I probably opened my mouth once too often while I was in the stands. The next year I somehow ended up being the assistant coach, Michael said.
One of Michael’s favorite memories of coaching came during his sister’s senior year in 1976. After losing their second match of the season, Concordia won 21 straight matches and landed in the state finals. In the last year that co-ed teams were allowed to play in the state tournament, Michael and the girls faced a South Bend Adams team that had three boys and three girls. Concordia lost the match by a score of 15-11, 15-9, but it is still a highlight of Michael’s career.
Having coached in front of that crowd and having that special group of girls, it was very special team to me, Michael said. It is definitely something you never forget.
After spending two years as an assistant coach and notching a 31-13 record, Michael spent the next eight years as the head coach at Concordia. During his tenure from 1979 to 1987 he recorded a 122-79 record. Despite his success, Michael has turned down many opportunities to coach at different levels. He finds it more enjoyable to be playing.
When Michael is not competing around the nation with Kings Mountain Fog, he enjoys getting his volleyball fix right in Fort Wayne. He has belonged to the Central Branch YMCA since he graduated college and plays there every Wednesday night.
My philosophy is one year at a time. I find it neat that I’m still able to play and I want to keep competing as long as I possibly can, Michael said.
If his current success is any indication Michael will be playing, and winning, for years to come.