Jim Plaisted gives all the credit in the world to Neill Luebke – among others — for getting the Badger Region Volleyball Association pointed in the right direction.
“With all his connections at USA Volleyball in Colorado Springs because of the high-level officiating that he had reached – all that helped pave the way,” Plaisted said in an interview with Badger Region staff.
Plaisted was one of a handful of club directors and organizers Luebke reached out to in the early stages of forming the Badger Region in the early 1990s.
According to Plaisted, the second commissioner and early board member of the Badger Region, Luebke had the vision and Madison resident Kay Schachte had the organization.
“I’m not sure we would have been able to get off the ground without Kay’s attention to detail,” Plaisted said.
In addition to Schachte, Plaisted pointed to the accounting skills of Karl Dickson, who helped with the early finances of the Badger Region.
“With so few people playing back in the day, we had to be very fiscally responsible, and Carl made sure that we weren’t spending more money than we were bringing in,” Plaisted said.
Dickson, who had a background in accounting, walked the Region through becoming a non-profit organization, itemized budget requests and did the taxes for the organization in the early years.
His goal was to run as tight of a ship as possible, especially because the Region was brand new and wanted to put its best foot forward.
“Early on, the goal was to just break even,” Dickson said. “As things got bigger, that is when we got the idea of paying people to grow the Region, focus on coaching and offer more training opportunities.”
According to Plaisted and Dickson, both of whom were on staff at North Shore Milwaukee Volleyball Club at the time, a lot of what the original group was trying to do was give members (coaches, athletes and refs) the opportunity to train and compete in the state of Wisconsin and not have to drive to Chicago (in the Great Lakes Region) for everything.
Both recalled that there were only a handful of clubs with only a few teams each that they could recall at the start of the Region including (but not limited to) Great Lakes Volleyball Club, North Shore Milwaukee, Milwaukee Sting, Spring City and Wisconsin Select.
Looking back, they agreed that there was also some tension between the leaders of these organizations who had their own agendas as club directors, but were for the most part able to put those aside for the good of the Region.
“Terry Paulson was running Great Lakes and Jim was running North Shore, and the two didn’t always see eye to eye. They were two rival clubs,” Dickson said.
Dickson said he wasn’t sure how it made sense that the early 1990s were the right time to start the Region, but the time was right.
“Everything was word of mouth – kids talking to friends, parents talking parents, high school coaches getting the word out,” Dickson said. “Fortunately, we had a lot of respected people running clubs and in the Region at the start.
For many athletes, officials, parents and coaches, it was a leap of faith that they were taking.
“But I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” Dickson said. “It was a little simpler of a time – nothing compared to what it is today. Parents basically handed off their kids just hoping this was going to be a good thing. For most, I think it was. Their still happy about reminiscing about those early years when I see a lot of the kids who played in the first couple years.”
Amazed by growth
“It’s been quite a ride for our ‘little’ Badger Region,” Plaisted said. “I am shocked that the market has been able to support so many club and volleyball-specific facilities. I would have never thought of such a thing 25 years ago.”
Dickson echoed those same sentiments.
“I think we were just happy at one time running a club with three teams,” Dickson said. “Never did I think it would get this big.”
Plaisted said the individuals who have carried the torch for the Badger Region have made all the difference.
“A huge kudos to all of those who have served and work for the mission of the Region,” Plaisted added. “I’m very impressed with the vision, professionalism and success of the Region, for sure.”