After retiring as both volleyball coach and a PE teacher, Rosie Honl runs one final team camp

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Rosie Honl poses for a photo while volleyball teams practice in the background. Honl, the long-time Crook County High School head volleyball coach, recently retired from teaching and coaching. This team camp is scheduled to be her last.Rosie Honl has been a fixture at Crook County High School well over 20 years.

Following this past volleyball season, she retired from coaching, then at the end of the school year, she walked away from teaching as well.

Last Monday marked the end of an era as Honl wrapped up her final Rimrock Volleyball Club Team Camp at the CCHS gym.

"The camp has gone very well," Honl said on Sunday afternoon. "I love doing it. Jerry (her husband) said don't do it, but I said one last time. I have all these coaches who wanted to do it one last time, and I just love this weekend. It's so much fun."

Honl has been running the team camp for more than 15 years, with some of the same coaches working at the camp the entire time.

"You start looking at the teams who come here and where they end up the next season and start keeping track, and I would venture to say that at least two thirds of them end up in the state tournament," long-time assistant coach Kristi Struck said during the camp. "They come here and they learn our skills. They learn our system. They learn our rules, and they take all of those rules back to the gym, and it just makes them better players and better teams."

The system that Struck referred to is called Gold Medal Squared.

Gold Medal Squared runs camps and clinics around the country and has an avid and enthusiastic following.

Honl has run the same system for most of her time as head coach at CCHS and is a vocal proponent of that system.

And she is not alone. Several former CCHS players have also become head coaches and the vast majority of them have bought into the Gold Medal Squared system and use it in their own programs.

Honl willingly shares the entire system, including philosophy, drills, rules, basic team structure, and anything else that coaches want to know, to anyone who asks.

That has included coaches and teams that Honl's teams have competed against.

"The rules are most important," Struck said. "It gives kids a foundation to know what is right and wrong, and it also gives you something to coach to. You can say that's not how we do it, we do it this way. We pass high, inside, and off the net, and the kids know what to expect every time they get the ball. They know what we expect, and they know where to put the ball. They have a set of rules that applies to every time they touch the ball."

Honl has drilled those rules into her players' heads so that they become second nature. When running a team camp, she incorporates the exact same drills and the same rules.

As a result, several of her former players have come back and now work as coaches at her team camp.

Each team that comes to the camp is assigned a coach other than their head coach.

That allows the team's head coach to watch the drills, ask questions and stand back and observe rather than have to coach.

Honl works hard to make sure that each team that comes to the camp gets a head coach that will fit with that team's chemistry.

This year, four of the coaches at the camp were former CCHS players.

Jennifer Roth, who currently plays volleyball at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas, coached for the first and last time at this year's camp.

"It's weird because two years ago, I was here being coached, and now I'm coaching with these coaches," Roth said. "It was cool because I got to demo everything, and I knew what was going on, and I could help people. I liked that part the best."

Denae Newton — who was one of Honl's first players at Crook County, and is now the head coach at Philomath High School — brought her team to this year's camp and also coached another team.

"The fundamentals and the skills are a no-brainer," Newton said. "I know what my team is going to get when they are here. But what I'm noticing with my group that have been with me for a year now is that they are glowing. They have bought in and they love each other. They love Rosie, and they love the coaching staff here. It just makes me proud that I was able to share what I was given with them."

Coaches bring their teams to the camp because it gives them a head start on the season, but they also bring their teams because of Honl.

"It really gets us a head start on the season and by the mid or end of the season, we are seasoned and ready to go," said Burns head coach Paula Toney, who has won several state championships during her tenure at Burns.

Toney has brought her teams to the camp for several years now but has also joined the coaching staff at the camp.

"I think its Rosie's positivity that keeps everyone coming back," she said. "The kids were just saying 'we are going to miss Rosie and how positive she is.' She's always putting herself on the line. She's always jumping out there and being in the lead, showing everybody that this is how you should be. We are sure going to miss her."

Dan Sitter, who has coached at the camp since the beginning, agrees.

"My time is pretty precious as a single father," he said. "So, I will still tell you, I would do this camp every year because it is totally worth it to me. It's totally worth it to the kids, and it's giving back to the community, just like Rosie does. It doesn't matter whether I get paid or not. I would do this anytime because it's for Rosie."

Jessica Mott, the head coach at Barlow, has brought her team to the camp for the past six years and has worked as a coach at the camp for even longer.

Mott agrees that the camp helps prepare teams for the season and also says that she keeps coming back because of Honl.

"It's nice for my team to get a different perspective and learn new things from someone else," she said. "It's really important for the experience but also for them to learn how to compete and be successful. This is a good atmosphere for that because they play a lot of different games where you can be successful in different situations. I would just say that Rosie has taught me patience. She's taught me how to manage things well and knowing how to do all those extra things, and she's taught me to be humble about things."

Mott added that as good as Honl is as a volleyball coach, it is her attitude that keeps other coaches coming back year after year.

"She does everything unselfishly," Mott said. "She gives everything that she possibly can, and she never expects somebody to say thank you. She doesn't expect anything out of it, whether you are a kid or a coach or anyone. Everything she does is purely to help someone else, and she's the most pure, generous person that we can get."

Struck echoed that thought as well.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Players at this year's Rimrock Volleyball Team Camp listen intently as Dan Sitter, far right, talks about ethics and integrity. Many of the coaches at the camp had Crook County ties. Those tied to Crook County included former assistant coach Kristi Struck, far left against wall in black; Braiden Johnson, in pink standing in doorway; Abby Smith, in blue, standing in middle; and Jennifer Roth, in white, also standing. The camp, Rosie Honl's last, ended Monday, July 16. "No one can do what she does at all," she said. "Players are looking at us for energy. Her time, her dedication, no one can touch a ball for 11 months out of the year and coach and say the same thing over and over again and love every kid, but that woman. It has made me a better person, a better mom, a better teacher, a better coach and better at life."

Roth said that what makes Honl special isn't just her coaching, it is how approachable and available she is.

"She's made an impact on the person I am," Roth said. "She's such an amazing woman. Everyone loves Rosie. She's just a fun person. I'm sorry that this camp is the end, but I'm happy for Rosie and what she's going to accomplish next."

Although all the coaches and players at the camp had positive things to say about Honl and her camps, Newton had a lot more to say.

Newton was an eighth-grader when Honl first came to Crook County. That summer, Newton signed up for a volleyball camp run by Honl.

The following year, Newton was one of five freshmen on the varsity volleyball team. By her junior year, the team won their first league championship. Newton's senior year, the team won a second league title and placed seventh at state.

Later, Newton's younger sister, Braiden Johnson won four consecutive state titles while playing for Honl.

Still, despite the success, Newton says that Honl changed her life forever.

"I was a classic divorced kid," Newton said. "I bombed out of middle school. I was a classic at risk kid. I don't think that I passed a class in middle school, but Rosie moved here, and I remember the very first thing she said to me. I never ever forgot her just noticing me, and that was the first time that I ever felt like I was somebody. She changed my whole life."

Newton added that she is positive that she would not have even finished high school if not for the influence of Honl.

"I'm 100 percent certain that I would not be teaching, and I would not be teaching the way that I do if not for her influence," she said. "The way that she impacts us outside of the gym is the big thing. I just am blown away when I think how she's changed my life. Volleyball is just a metaphor for the kind of human being's she was building."

Newton added that she spent a lot of time at the Honl's house while she was in high school, and she still texts and calls Rosie regularly.

"Outside of volleyball, we had access to her 24/7," Newton said. "They (Rosie and Jerry) provided me a safe place to flail and to be a festering lily. They modeled for me what I could be, and then they believed in me. Rosie saw something in me that I didn't see myself. Now, when I'm talking to my kids, I talk a lot about how I'm on this journey with them. This journey with integrity and transparency and being a good human being and softening ourselves for each other. I talk more about how I am trying to model that for them, so that I can become that myself someday."

Newton added that Honl's former players are watching with interest to see what happens to the program now that Honl has retired.

"I would love to know what percentage of Rosie's former players went into teaching or coaching, because it's high," Newton said. "I am really proud of the program as far as its legacy. It's hard for me to watch Rosie's role shift, and we are all very protective of the program."

Although she is stepping away from the program, Honl said that she will never completed step away from volleyball or from her former players.

"There are kids from all over, and they just listen to me like I know what I'm talking about," she said. "I've got a great group of kids, and it's neat having my own kids here. You know, Jennifer Roth and Abby Smith and Denae Newton and Braiden Johnson and Kaitlyn Duncan. They are all my kids. I don't want to think about it, but I'm really going to miss it."

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