For 22 years, Rosie Honl was the Energizer Bunny on the Crook County volleyball bench
For 22 years, Rosie Honl was the Energizer Bunny on the Crook County volleyball bench

[Editor’s note: The idea behind “Alphabet Stories” is to write one noteworthy athletics-related story about each OSAA-member school. We started with Adrian HS on Sept.18. Today’s story, more than six months later, is about Crook County HS. The goal is to write two per week all the way to Yoncalla! While we will be relying upon athletic directors to furnish story ideas, anyone may offer suggestions by emailing [email protected]]

Rosie Honl retired as volleyball coach at Crook County after the 2017. Honl’s history at the school includes 470 wins over 22 seasons, eight consecutive state titles from 2006 through 2013, and being named 2012 National Coach of the Year. Her legacy includes so much more than that…

Honl moved to Prineville in 1996 to become a PE teacher and volleyball coach at Crook County. She inherited a Cowgirl team in need of an attitude adjustment.

“It took me three years before I got this team to win a game,” Honl recalled. “They had to change their mindset. They walked in to a gym thinking of themselves as losers instead of winners.”

Honl, who had been head coach at Lincoln High in Portland for four years prior to arriving in Prineville, got to work both on the fundamentals of the game and teaching her charges life skills, as Prineville led the state in teen pregnancy. She also started Rimrock Volleyball Club, which allowed talented athletes throughout Eastern Oregon the opportunity to practice volleyball skills year-round.

Honl believed that, in the population-strapped town of 9,000, you had to identify the athletes early and work with them. Honl gave free lessons after school for years to anyone who needed extra work and, in her club, coached all the 10s, 12s and 14s.

“I teach skills a certain way and they all have to do it that way,” Honl explained. “Then you can correct things.”

With the focus on fundamentals and Honl’s boundless enthusiasm, it was only a matter of time before Crook County started to win. The first title came in 2006, the first year Oregon switched from a four-class system to one with six classes. Every year for the ensuing seven, the season ended with the Cowgirls hoisting a championship trophy.

“Every year, the seniors said, ‘We are not going to be the team that breaks the streak,” Honl said. In 2012, the theme was “Seven Up.” In 2013, it was “Eight’s Great.”

In 2008, after Crook County had won two volleyball championships, Honl got news that hit the program hard: the school district, cash strapped, would no longer fund athletics at the school. If the team wanted to play, more than $20,000 would have to be raised.

Honl, who had worked tirelessly to build the program, set out with the same energy to keep it alive, coming up with one fundraising plan after another. She collected bottles for recycling, sold donated firewood, washed cars, had her team clean up after local social functions, all to raise the funds to continue to simply have a team to coach. The area embraced her efforts, which allowed her to field championship team after championship team.

“The community backed us so much,” Honl said. “It almost brings tears to my eyes because of all the money we’ve had to raise. They just supported us.”

“You can't replicate Rosie,” said Joel Kent, a Rimrock coach, back in 2012. “She simply has energy and passion for the game unrivaled by others. Her coaching role model is John Wooden. When most coaches sleep, she goes over stats. When most coaches rest, she takes the time to work in the gym with individuals needing extra help. Her smile and love of life and the game is contagious. Simply put, she is a master of squeezing the potential out of every team, bringing joy and success to those she coaches.”

“She’s always positive on the court and she never lets us get down,” added Hannah Troutman, one of her best players. “She’s not out just to coach us but to learn herself. She’s always learning through the process of coaching.”

“Rosie has undying energy that is contagious,” Kent added. “She focuses on form over result, attitude over ability, and joy above pressure. She is first to pass on the recognition to her players and assistants, but it is she who is truly deserving of praise.”