BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After being a part of a program with a decade on stretch of making the state volleyball tournament, Holy Trinity Catholic’s Kelly Knustrom is close to being named the new coach at Fort Madison High School
Pending Fort Madison Community School District approval, Knustrom a high school physical education and health instructor in the district for the past eight years, will take over for Kent Bailey who retired at the end of the season.
Fort Madison Athletic Director Jeremy Swink released the hiring Friday morning.
Knustrom is bringing a wealth of experience and success after serving with Melissa Freesmeier and Tom Gendron at HTC for the past 11 seasons. A stretch that included a Class 1A state title in 2014.
Ten of those years HTC made the state playoffs and missed this year when eventual Class 1A champion Burlington Notre Dame knocked the Crusaders off their 10-year run in a five-set tiebreaker in October in the Region 8 semifinals.
“The committee and I had those very conversations, and you know, she’s the ideal fit,” Swink said.
“We can’t say enough good things about her. She’s been with Melissa for a number of years. We’re hoping that we can see some of the benefits of that experience in our program.”
Knustrom said Friday that she hadn’t really been looking for a head coaching position of her own. But had been recently thinking that Fort Madison would be a position she would want.
“I’ve been thinking for a while that if I could get in with Fort Madison, that’s what I really wanted,” Knustrom said.
Freesmeier said Knustrom has been a critical part of HTC’s success and will carry that with her to Fort Madison.
“As much as we will miss Kelly in our program, I know that FMHS is getting one of the best,” Freesmeier said. “We wish her and her team well. Kelly has been a huge part of our success here at HTC.”
Knustrom said she’s picked up on many of the physical and mental strategies of the game with Freesmeier and Gendron.
“I’ve coached with Melissa and Tom for 11 years and I definitely have learned from the best,” Knustrom said. “I’ve learned everything from the fundamental stuff up to the all the mental aspects and strategies of the game.”
She said she also has watched the Holy Trinity Catholic organization develop a culture of getting the most from their athletes.
After the school board approves the hire, Knustrom said she wants to start looking at personnel on the floor and go from there.
“I haven’t really looked hard yet, but I have an idea of who the returning kids are. Obviously we graduated a few seniors, but a few underclassman got a lot of minutes last year,” she said.
“And personnel changes can influence who decides to go out or start playing club ball, too.”
Knustrom will be joined by Carrie Burken on staff, but the status of the a second assistant is still in the air.
The Coe College graduate said Fort Madison is strong on fundamentals like passing and had good serving numbers off last year’s team that finished 11-18 in the COVID-laced 2020 season. The Bloodhounds did finish Southeast Conference action 5-2, however, but lost to Mt. Pleasant in the first round of regionals.
“There’s some of work to be done with offensive stuff. I hope we can get in the gym soon and get some club stuff going, and obviously none of that’s going to be traditional right now. But we’ll get some gym time to see what we’re working with.”
Knustrom who’s lived in the area most of her life, played high school volleyball for Freesmeier at the former Marquette High School in West Point, graduating in 2003.
“This decision has been a long-time coming. I’ve just had my eye on this position for a bit. It feels like the right time to make this move.”