After 23 years, Bollman still going strong at Holy Cross

Jon Bollman (right) still enjoys volunteering with the Holy Cross youth volleyball program. Submitted photo

EDITOR”S NOTE: The Delaware State News would like to feature some of the volunteers who keep youth sports going downstate.
This week, John Bollman of Holy Cross volleyball was nominated. If you would like to nominate someone, e-mail their name and some background information to sports@newszap.com.

DOVER — Nobody ever sets out to volunteer with a program for over two decades.

Certainly Jon Bollman never expected to stick with Holy Cross volleyball for that long.

One day the Dover man was signing his son up to play in the league and, the next thing he knew, he was running it.

“You know how coaches say, ‘Hey, would you like to coach, would you help out?’” Bollman recalled. “So I started helping. Then the regular administrator, he moved away. Since my kids were coming through the program, they said, ‘Would you take over?’

“I said, ‘Yeah, it’s not a problem.’”

Now in his 23rd year involved with Holy Cross volleyball, Bollman still enjoys being part of the league. The in-house program normally runs in the fall and spring and includes players from first to 12th grade.

He’s just one of countless volunteers who keep youth sports going in Kent and Sussex Counties — when things aren’t on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 57-year-old Bollman said he likes the fact that so many youngsters got their start in volleyball at Holy Cross.

“It’s open to any and everybody — any denomination, whatever,” said Bollman, a father of three. “I want to have a program where kids will want to play as they become adults. So many other sports, once you become an adult, you’re done playing.

“But volleyball you can play. … well, I’m 57 and I still play.”

Bollman feels a lot of pride when he sees former Holy Cross players go on to make their teams at Caesar Rodney, Dover or Polytech High. While the Holy Cross league is co-ed, only girls’ volleyball is an official school-sponsored sport in Delaware.

“We have a lot of kids from all the high schools that come through,” said Bollman, who still coaches. “It’s like a starter program for the girls who play in high school.

“I’ll go to high school matches now and I’ll say, ‘That girl’s been in the program, that girl’s been in the program.’ We have kids coming from Smyrna, from Milford, from all around that come to the program.

“The whole point, as I tell my coaches, you coach the sport so the kids will want to keep playing it,” he added. “All coaches love to win. But it’s more important that the kids love the sport so they want to keep coming back.”

A graduate of the former Temple Christian School in Dover, Bollman said he gets a great amount of support from the Holy Cross parish. There’s also no shortage of support from the many other volunteers who have made the league successful over the years and his wife, Paula.

“We’re very lucky to have volunteers like him and like other coordinators who are willing to step up and take the lead on their respective sports,” said Vince Ortolan, who coordinates youth sports for the Diocese of Wilmington.

Sure, there are times when running the league is time consuming. But Bollman said he always want to come back to it.

“I enjoy the sport,” said Bollman, who works for Verizon. “There’s always a new kid coming into the group. I just want to see kids playing volleyball.”

Even after a spring in which the league couldn’t play because of the pandemic, Bollman said he knows there are kids out there who are anxious to get playing again.

“I still get calls right now, ‘When is the gym going to open up? When are we going to be able to play?’” he said.

So does 23 years sound like a long time to be involved with the league?

“Yeah,” Bollman answered. “But when you enjoy something that you’re doing, the times just flies.”