He’s a ramblin’ man

Story by Thom Fountain

Senior Jimmy Burg started playing volleyball in the fifth grade, started coaching in high school and has now made his first serious run at the state championship coaching the Regis High School varsity girls’ volleyball team.

The best part is he’s having a blast.

“I think number one is I always want the girls to have fun,” said Burg, a physical education and health sciences major at UW-Eau Claire. “You have to be able to have fun and enjoy the game.”

In Burg’s second season as head coach, the Regis Ramblers’ volleyball team had an absolutely dominant season, going 40-2 in matches and losing only 10 sets in the entire season (the Ramblers’ 42 matches would have contained a little more than 100 sets).

Regis was 7-0 in their conference, won the regional championship and made it to the sectional championship before losing to state runner-up Grantsburg.

Burg said winning the conference and regional championships were highlights of the season, especially after a tough loss in regionals last year.

This season’s success was not necessarily out of the blue, though. In Burg’s first season at Regis he led the team to a 26-7 record, going 6-2 in conference, which was strong enough for third.

“We ended up having a really nice season last year and surprised a lot of people,” Burg said. “And this year we had a lot of our main girls coming back so we knew this was a good year to make a big push for a good season, which we ended up having.”

Burg attributed the team’s success to their willingness to play every game like it was their last, even their sectional loss to Grantsburg.

“I think that’s one thing the girls did throughout the entire year this year, obviously by our record,” Burg said. “Unfortunately, in that sectional final game they gave it their best effort – it’s just that that was a night where we didn’t play our best and unfortunately we ran into a really good team.”

Burg said he expects his players to always give 100 percent and play their best, whether in practice or in games. He also expects them to work together.

“You’re not just a team, you’re a family,” Burg said. “When you go to such a small school like Regis, where you only have 224 kids in the whole high school, you’re going to see each other a ton.”

Burg went on to say that he hopes to see his players bonding outside of volleyball, whether at school, team dinners or hanging out independently.

Burg started coaching middle school volleyball when he was at Arrowhead High School and discovered that it was his true passion.

“I’ve always told my parents and my teammates that if I had to choose between coaching and playing, it’d be coaching 100 percent,” Burg said. “It’s just something that I pride myself on – knowing the game.”

After high school, Burg’s first coaching gig was heading the freshman team at Altoona High School and then on to Regis High School.

Being hired at Regis was not problem-free though. Burg said he faced concern about being such a young male coach in charge of the varsity girls’ team. After getting to know the team and implementing his program, however, Burg said people started to come around and change their minds about him.

As a physical education and health sciences major, Burg said he’d like to continue coaching after college. Until then, he says it’s a constant struggle balancing school with coaching. Being an education major, Burg has to find time for not only regular classes, but also other activities such as after-school programs and student teaching.

“I’ve been able to balance or at least kind of organize my schedule and try to be able to do the best I can with all my classes.”

Burg said he was fortunate to be able to start playing volleyball in middle school, and he didn’t look back, playing for three years on Arrowhead High School’s varsity squad as well as on a Midwest select team.

Currently, Burg plays as a setter for and is the treasurer of the Eau Claire men’s volleyball club team.

Senior Tim Bomgren, the president of the Eau Claire men’s team, has been playing with Burg since they came to Eau Claire.

“He’s very positive with the guys and he’s a very good leader,” Bomgren said. “It’s really easy to play with him and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Burg has seen quite a bit of success as a player on the club team as well, being voted to the Northern Intercollegiate Volleyball Conference All-Conference team last year. He said this was an honor because the award is mainly voted on by other players and captains from around the conference.

“It’s just kind of nice to get acknowledged by other players that you play against and them appreciating the skill you have and appreciating the job you do on your own respective team,” Burg said.

The club team has seen their share of victories, finishing in the top 10 nationally for the last three years. This year, the team is going into the national championship with their entire starting line-up from last year.

With all the success Burg has had, he said he still finds the most satisfaction in the joy volleyball can bring.

“Being a coach and knowing that the girls are meeting the goals that they set forth is a good feeling as it is,” Burg said. “It sounds cliche and cute; but seeing the smiles and seeing the enjoyment on the girls’ faces while coaching is something that is worth every penny of the salary that you get from the school.”