Nyhaug Part Of Inaugural Class For S.D. Volleyball Hall

One of the groundbreakers for volleyball in the state of South Dakota. Seventh on the state’s all-time wins chart in the sport. An individual who has held a number of leadership positions, both in the state and nationally.
Yet Viborg’s Connie Nyhaug is still unsure she belongs in the inaugural class of the South Dakota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
The SDVBCA inducted the former Lady Vikings’ mentor and three others prior to the semifinals of the S.D. State Volleyball Tournament Friday in Rapid City. The others are former South Dakota High School Activities Association assistant executive director Ruth Rehn and longtime coaches Kathy Hunt and Galen Busch.
“I am extremely honored, but I looked at the other three and I didn’t feel I fit in with the rest of the group,” said Nyhaug prior to the ceremony. “You can’t say enough about what Ruth. She is the one who got girls’ athletics going in the state. Kathy and Galen, their win records are unbelievable, and Galen has been a national coach of the year.”
Nyhaug’s abilities have often been recognized by her peers, serving both as the president of the SDVBCA and the South Dakota High School Coaches Association. She has also been the volleyball chair on the NHSACA from 1997-2007, as well as the SDHSCA volleyball chair from 2000-05. Her honors include the 1994 SDHSCA Coach of the Year, the 2008 SDHSCA Max Hawk Award and the SDHSAA Distinguished Service Award.
Nyhaug started volleyball in Viborg during the 1978-79 season, a full four years before the first SDHSAA tournament.
“We played intramurals that first year, then we started playing other schools the next year,” she said. “We played O’Gorman, Lennox, schools that were a lot bigger than we were. There weren’t many schools that had it.”
While getting girls to play was not a challenge, finding court time occasionally was.
“We had to work around the boys all the time,” Nyhaug said. “If we wanted to use the court, but we had to practice after the boys.”
Under Nyhaug, the Lady Vikings earned back-to-back state tournament appearances in the late 1980s, finishing third in 1988 and second in 1989.
The 1988 appearance was big, not only for the Lady Vikings but for the city of Viborg.
“That was the first time Viborg had ever been to state in a ‘ball’ sport,” Nyhaug said. “It was a big deal for Viborg, and big for us, too.”
Viborg won the state title in 1994, and returned to state in 2001. But whether the season ended at state or not, each season had its own rewards, Nyhaug said.
“Our state championship, that was one of the biggest highlights for me. In 2001, we went to state and got eighth, but no one would have given us a shot at the beginning of the season,” she said. “But every year is a new challenge. Every time you step onto the court, you need to focus to work with new kids every year.”
That ability to teach the sport of volleyball was Nyhaug’s greatest asset, according to Wendy Harms, who took over the Lady Vikings program this past season after 10 years of coaching with Nyhaug.
“She can take any girl and turn her into a volleyball player,” Harms said. “The players knew she loved volleyball heart and soul. They knew she was passionate and would give 110 percent of herself for them. They knew what she expected of everyone.”
That attitude did not change with the record, Harms noted.
“Connie always kept a positive attitude. She gave her all, whether it was a state tournament team or a barely-got-through-the-season team,” she said. “She kept us going, kept us on an even keel.”
Nyhaug’s focus did not stop with the dozen or so players on varsity.
“I’ve always said, ‘Show me a good B-team and I’ll show you a good varsity,'” she said. “That’s who your varsity is practicing against every day.”
Besides being a great teacher of athletes, Nyhaug also helped prepare Harms to fill her shoes.
“She has always kept me in the loop. She never made me feel like an assistant,” Harms said of coaching with Nyhaug. “She gave me huge knowledge. I have great respect for her.
“I have gigantic shoes to fill.”

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