Lawrence High volleyball coaching legend Joan Wells, who in 2003 was recognized as one of the top coaches in Kansas prep history, has been accorded an even greater honor.
Wells, who led the Lions to 15 state titles in a 27-year career, on June 30 was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Orlando, Fla.
She and 31 others were recognized as elite high school coaches in U.S. history.
"I was very thrilled, proud and honored to find out that I had made the National High School Athletic Coaches Assn. Hall of Fame," said Wells.
She compiled a 865-89 record from 1971 to 1997, and her teams reached the state finals in 22 of 27 campaigns.
"I always felt I was at the best high school I could have been at during my career," Wells said. "None of this would have been possible without my assistant coaches and the great athletes, parents and administration we have in Lawrence."
Wells, who two years ago was inducted into the Kansas State High School Activities Assn. Hall of Fame, is one of four Kansans to be named to the national Hall.
The others: Joe Schrag (Topeka West track, cross country), Gary Cornelsen (Liberal football) and Jim Baker (Buhler basketball).
"It's humbling. You go to a convention like the one we (she and husband, Terry) were just at and see all the people there who put so many years of their lives into coaching," Wells said. "To stay in coaching 27 years, you have to love it, and I did. I think it's one of the reasons we were successful."
One of Wells' top accomplishments has nothing to do with wins and losses. In all, 29 of her former players went on to play Division One volleyball.
"It is very rewarding to know you helped a number of people get a college education," Wells said.
"Toward the end of my coaching career and especially my teaching career (she left LHS in 2003 after 32 years) ... the high school coach does not any more play as big a part in recruiting. Athletes compete in offseason programs, and the U.S. coaches do a lot of the work in recruiting now."
Wells' concern for the future of her players was one of the things that made her a Hall of Famer, said Jo Huntsinger, who played for three LHS state title teams coached by Wells, assisted Wells, then succeeded Wells as Lion coach.
"She has had a positive impact on a whole lot of kids' lives," said Huntsinger, who has three sisters who also won multiple state titles at LHS playing for Wells.
"She was very well-respected in our league, state and nationally. I attended a couple of national conventions with her. Everybody knew who she was. The Hall of Fame recognition is well-deserved. She is an institution."
Wells, 56, entered coaching after an accomplished career as a KU athlete. She was a letterwinner in four sports - volleyball, field hockey, softball and tennis - graduating in 1971.
"There were no scholarships. You played because you loved the game," Wells said. "My sophomore year was the first year at KU there was any funding for women's athletics. The student senate allotted $2,000. In 1998, KU celebrated the 30th anniversary of women's sports, and a lot of us were awarded our letters by Bob Frederick."
Wells now is enjoying life in the stands, not on the sidelines.
"Terry and I are really enjoying retirement. It's really nice to attend the activities and see everybody and not have all the responsibility any more," she said.
"At the same time, when you go to a volleyball match it's hard to not want to jump up and call a timeout. We are still big Lawrence High fans and are with them wholeheartedly."
Joan Wells at a glance
Former Lawrence High volleyball coach Joan Wells was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame on June 30 in Orlando, Fla. Here are some of her greatest accomplishments as coach at Lawrence High from 1971 to '97: ¢ 865-89 record and .907 winning percentage. Her 865 victories rank in the top five in national history. ¢ 15 state championships, seven second-place finishes, two third-place finishes. ¢ 15 Sunflower League championships. ¢ Mizuno High School Volleyball Top 25 national ranking in 1990, '92 and '95. ¢ Coached 29 athletes who played Division One volleyball. ¢ National High School Athletic Coaches Assn. National Volleyball Coach of Year in 1983. ¢ Kansas Volleyball Assn. Founders Award in 1996. ¢ National Federation Interscholastic Coaches Assn. National Volleyball Coach of Year in 1997. ¢ Kansas State High School Activities Assn. Hall of Fame inductee in 2003. ¢ KSHSAA Governor's Award in 1998. ¢ Renaming of the Kansas Volleyball Assn. All Star match MVP Award the Joan Wells Award of Excellence in 1998. ¢ Renaming of the Lawrence Tournament to the Joan L. Wells Invitational Tournament in 1998. ¢ National Assn. of Girls and Women's Sports Pathfinder Award in 2001.