Don Shondell, a Monroeville native who compiled the second-most coaching wins in men's college volleyball history, died at age 92 in Muncie on Tuesday. The Fort Wayne Central High School graduate's Ball State's teams won 769 matches and made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances from 1959 to 1998.
Ironically, the volleyball bug almost skipped Shondell when he went to work at General Electric after graduating high school in 1946.
“I was running an automatic punch press, and it was the most boring job in the world,'' Shondell said. “Jim Savio got transferred up the line, and that's where I'd be in 20 years if things went well. When he lost his (two) fingers, I said, 'Hey, I'm getting out of here.' I saved all the money I could for six months.''
At the behest of another Fort Wayne friend, Jim Hettler, Shondell left for Ball State and started playing on the club volleyball team even though he had never seen or played in a match before. Shondell graduated in 1952 and joined the Army, where he played on his regimental volleyball team.
“A lot of it was just luck, and it turned out to be good luck,'' Shondell said of his journey to coaching the Cardinals. “I got a ton of breaks. I always talk about the people who made it possible for me. Everything you are is because somebody else has done something to make it possible for you. I'm very thankful for everything I've got.''
Shondell went back to Ball State in 1958 and started the varsity volleyball program, co-founded the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association with Jim Coleman in 1961, coached 30 All-Americans and was inducted into numerous halls of fame.
Dozens of former players became coaches and helped spread volleyball across the world. Among Shondell's numerous protegés was former IPFW coach Arnie Ball, who played at Ball State.
“I don't think there's a person in the country who has meant more to volleyball than Don Shondell,'' Ball said in 1998. “His coaching record speaks for itself, but it goes beyond that. He has continually introduced people to the game and the other obvious thing is that the people who played for him have gone on and taught the game itself. There's no doubt his legacy are those people.''
Shondell is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Included are sons Dave Shondell, the Purdue women's volleyball coach; John Shondell, associate head coach at Purdue; and Steve Shondell, a 21-time Indiana high school championship coach at Muncie Burris. Granddaughter Jasmine Fullove served eight years as an assistant coach at Purdue Fort Wayne, and grandson Kyle Shondell is coach of the Indiana Tech men's volleyball team, which he restarted from scratch in 2020 after a decades-long hiatus.
After a private burial next week, a celebration of life service will be held sometime after the New Year.