Kleinschmidt takes over boys volleyball program

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Rob Kleinschmidt (far left) was recently named the new boys volleyball coach at Middleton High School./Photo submitted

Rob Kleinschmidt was always a natural athlete.

Kleinschmidt competed in football, wrestling and track while at Orfordville-Parkview High School during the late-1980s.

When Kleinschmidt was a student at UW-Madison, though, he encountered the first sport that gave him fits.

Volleyball.

“My wife (Sue) introduced me to volleyball when I was 21 and I was just awful,” Kleinschmidt said. “I couldn’t believe I could be that bad at something. But I started playing, got a lot better and loved it.”

So much that Kleinschmidt has been playing — and coaching — for more than a quarter century. Now, the latest chapter in his volleyball journey takes him to Middleton High School, where he was recently named the Cardinals’ new head coach.

Kleinschmidt replaces longtime coach Ben White, who was named Middleton’s assistant athletic director in June, a position that precludes him from coaching.

“I am proud of the boys volleyball program we have in place at Middleton and excited for Rob to take helm,” White said. “I have great respect for all that he has accomplished during his coaching career and I know he can continue to help our students have success both on and off the court.”

Kleinschmidt has certainly put together an impressive résumé since beginning his volleyball career in the early 1990s.

Kleinschmidt was a girls volleyball assistant coach at Verona in the early 1990s while he finished school at the UW.

He then took a job teaching Math at Hartland Arrowhead, and also took over as the Warhawks’ boys volleyball coach. From 1995-2001, Kleinschmidt led Arrowhead to state five times, where the Warhawks were state runners-up in 2001 and reached the state semifinals three other years.

Kleinschmidt became the men’s coach at Milwaukee School of Engineering in 2003, and has been actively involved in the club and high school scene since. Among Kleinschmidt’s stops since leaving MSOE are assistant coaching jobs at River Valley and Beloit Memorial High School, and a handful of seasons coaching club teams in the state.

During a normal fall, Kleinschmidt and the Cardinals would be competing right now. But Middleton moved fall sports to the winter/spring of 2021 because of COVID-19, meaning the boys volleyball season will now run from Feb. 22-April 12.

“The first thing people will notice is I do this for a couple of reasons,” said Kleinschmidt, who lives in Beloit and runs a small business with his wife. “I love the sport, I still play, so I know how much fun it is.

“I choose to coach because I enjoy the sport and love coaching it. I also love having a chance to work with kids and see what they want … and help them understand how to do it.”

Kleinschmidt and White coached against each other nearly two decades ago and have stayed in touch through the years. Kleinschmidt watched from afar as White led Middleton to 11 state tournaments in the last 19 years and rolled up 74 straight wins in the Big Eight Conference — a streak that began in 2010.

When White elected to step down, he called Kleinschmidt to let him know about the opening. And while Kleinschmidt wasn’t necessarily looking for a high school head coaching job, the more he explored the opening the more intrigued he was.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Middleton has done and the kind of kids that come out of the program,” Kleinschmidt said. “So, when Ben had contacted me, I had to give it a shot.

“I’ve known Middleton from back in the day, I know what a great history they have and how much they seem to love being around each other. The community supports them, which is great. If I could lay out things I’d like to see in a program, that’s what Middleton has.”

Kleinschmidt knows White’s shoes will be tough to fill. But he has an impressive track record himself and a plan to help future Cardinals succeed on the court — and in life.

“As a volleyball coach goes, I am there to support them every way I can,” Kleinschmidt said. “I’m pretty aggressive and competitive and we will game plan every match to win the match. I don’t mind a roadblock along the way, it’s what you do with those road blocks.

“You can learn a lot about life in a sport and that’s what we’ll try to do. As a coach, I’m very proactive, I will reach out and be accessible to all my kids. A big part of my job is to encourage players to know what goals they’re going to reach for and help them get there. I can’t wait to get started.”

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