Trinity Lutheran volleyball coach celebrates 700th win


Fans and players made a bigger deal out of Faith Wilder-Newland’s 700th career Indiana high school volleyball victory last week than she did.

For her, it is about the people, not the numbers, less about round numbers than special moments. That’s what sticks in her head after 29 years of coaching at Columbus East and for the last three years at Trinity Lutheran.

“It’s a passion,” she said the other day after the win over Franklin went on her résumé. “It’s something I love.”

Wins and losses count for sports coaches, but they may not be what really matter most. The athletes, the people whose lives are affected can linger in the mind longer.

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To get to 700 wins, Wilder-Newland had to pass through 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 and 600, too. Lots of zeroes. Lots of round numbers. Lots and lots of victories. But she said she doesn’t recall those occasions with nearly the clarity one might think. What happened in No. 100?

“I don’t have a clue,” she said.

How about winning No. 1? Does she remember that?

“I do sort of, but it’s been so long,” Wilder-Newland said. “I’m not sentimental.”

When one is discussing nearly 30 years of games, of bouncing balls, of teams, it can be challenging to retrieve specific wins out of the mind without Cliff Notes.

Whenever a coach has coached to milestone status, she is always asked how long she will coach. Will Wilder-Newland pile up another 700 wins?

“Probably not,” she said. “I definitely intend to coach as long as I still love it.”

What Wilder-Newland recalls best are sectionals, regionals, times teams playing ran deep into the state playoffs. The first time was 1992 with Columbus East.

“I guess the big milestone was the 1992 state finals,” she said. “It was just awesome. It’s more about the team accomplishments. It’s hard to explain. It’s something you feel. You fall in love with the athletes.”

Wilder-Newland uses the word “love” frequently when talking about volleyball, whether automatically speaking from the heart or consciously.

Still, she could not have imagined in 1992 she would still be at it, still be leading young women so many years later.

There isn’t a coach alive, a coach who is coaching who will deny that playing for a championship, of having a shot at the title after working for weeks and months through an obstacle course of a regular season and league championships and state playoffs and still being in the running when almost everyone else has gone home for the season isn’t meaningful.

Some cynical fans think winning is the only thing, but Wilder-Newland makes it clear the journey is paramount to her, the little things are what drive her, satisfactions catalogued along the way. She sounds as much like a classroom teacher as a coach.

“You watch them (the players) get better and accomplish more than they thought they could,” she said.

Growth is what she is talking about, the way a teacher takes pride in helping a child read better or to absorb numbers to make sense of addition.

Coaches watch the dawn of awareness in players as they grasp the drawn-up plays, understand where they need to be on the floor, how to compete with teamwork.

In 2003, Wilder-Newland’s team pulled off a major upset of Terre Haute South at regional to advance to state. The opponent was taller and populated with NCAA Division I prospects.

“It was just an amazing feeling,” she said. “Memories. That’s what’s important to me. I remember the kids.”

Then there was 2019 when the Cougars made a sweet ride to second place at state, something that doesn’t take much of a reach to think back on.

“It was wonderful,” Wilder-Newland said. “So much sweat and tears and heartache go into it. It’s pretty cool, even if we didn’t win.”

The Cougars are 5-2 so far this season with many of the same players on the roster, though not an exact match.

“What you did last year doesn’t matter,” Wilder-Newland said. “What you did yesterday doesn’t matter. It can inspire you. Every year, it’s starting a new family. There’s always a different mix of personalities.”

The new team, at the beginning of each season, also has zeroes, 0-0.

The fun thing for Wilder-Newland is discovering how it’s all going to turn out at the end of the season.

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