Bergman calls it a career with Chargers
CHAMPAIGN — Centennial volleyball coach Stan Bergman made a decision he had hoped to avoid.
He is now Centennial’s former volleyball coach. Bergman will step aside from a program he took over 15 years ago “in turmoil,” he recalled, and leave it in the hands of a successor with an area-record seven consecutive 30-win seasons.
His departure coincides with continued vision problems that he has dealt with for nearly two years. In January 2012, Bergman underwent a cornea transplant, but — even after two additional surgeries last July — he said, “Everything is fuzzy and cloudy.”
Bergman had considered stepping aside after last year’s third-place state finish in Class 3A, but he was optimistic that the summer procedures would make a difference.
“I had hoped it might alleviate what was going on,” Bergman said, “but there was not really a huge improvement.”
Though he still has a desire to coach — and will retain his positions as eighth-grade volleyball coach, athletic director and teacher at Jefferson Middle School — Bergman said, “I have no hesitation or reservation” resigning from the high school position.
His last official function with the Chargers will be Sunday’s team banquet.
“I felt the timing was right,” he said. “I felt the coaching staff is to the point where the transition will be real easy if one of the two (assistants) on the staff move up. I have no worries about the program running as efficiently as it has in the past.”
In 15 years at Centennial, Bergman’s record is 429-137-4, including a mark of 31-9 and an Elite Eight berth this fall. His overall career coaching record is 457-141-4.
Bergman’s assistants this year were Alan Newman, a first-year paid assistant who had volunteered his time for three seasons, and former Illini setter Annie Luhrsen.
“There are very few college athletes I’ve met who turned out to be extremely good coaches,” Bergman said. “Annie is an unbelievable coach. She has a lot of knowledge. She knows the game is just a game and you’re supposed to be learning life lessons through the game. She is a very efficient and a wonderfully gifted coach, which probably has a lot to do with how she was coached by Kevin (Hambly at Illinois) and her club and high school coaches.”
Bergman said Newman — who coaches with the Champaign-based Prime Time club program — also would be a top candidate.
“Alan has a lot of energy and has a passion for the game,” Bergman said. “He has worked hard, and I don’t know if I could see a better fit for the program. He is extremely fit and ready.”
Bergman wouldn’t rule out the possibility of returning — perhaps as a volunteer somewhere himself — depending on his vision.
“This has been a part of me for so long,” Bergman said. “This is 23 years in the making. I have grown up with it as much as volleyball has grown up itself. I enjoy it and will continue to enjoy it. I still have a high desire to coach.”
Jefferson’s season starts with tryouts Dec. 2. Bergman believes another cornea transplant could be in his future.
“That’s probably the only surgery that is available,” he said.
He knows he will miss the game at the high school level.
“It has been an exciting adventure,” Bergman said. “I’ve loved the networking, getting to know the officials, getting to know college coaches. Volleyball has its own world and has a networking world just like in basketball, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been a part of that volleyball realm. It has been such a pleasant, great feeling.
“The program we’ve put together is one of integrity, one of hard work and one of success,” he added. “I couldn’t be any more proud leaving it where it is, knowing the effort you’ve put in has paid off.”
Regardless of whether he returns as a high school volleyball coach, Bergman won’t be far removed from the sporting world. His sons, 8-year-old Alec and 6-year-old Aden, are active with the Champaign Heat swim program, park district baseball, flag football and golf.
“They are active kids, and the ultimate thing is to be able to spend more time with the boys as they get older,” Bergman said, “and lighten the load for my wife, Amy.”