MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With thousands of volleyball players, coaches and parents in downtown Minneapolis, one person sticks out: a Minnnesota man who started coaching the game when it was first introduced as a high school sport. Now, at age 71, he’s working with the high profile Northern Lights club.

Walt Weaver has seen this game improve over the past decade.

“The level of the kids has dramatically increased,” he said. “Bigger, stronger, faster, better athletes — and so you’re up against it when you play in that division.”

He has perspective, because he was there when it started in the high schools. He coached a state championship program at Apple Valley, where he also worked as an English teacher. It’s a district that understands winning.

“We know, for example, that Apple Valley is the winningest school in state titles, if you count arts, in the state since 1976” Weaver said.

He’s now a young 71 years old, and a bit of a legend on the circuit.

“It is really great having somebody like Walt here,” Northern Lights director of volleyball Curt Glesmenn said. “He is one of the top coaches in Minnesota, I’d say. He’s so wise, he’s done this for so many years, he knows exactly what to say to the kids and how to get the best out of them.”

His players appreciate his long history of winning.

“It’s very fun. It’s a very good experience and he’s a very good coach,” Northern Lights volleyball player Kelly Wolf said.

He credits his success with a focus on the process and, of course, the people.

“Just watching them develop and watching the things that happen to them and seeing them mesh as a group, that’s a big part of it,” Weaver said. “Seeing where they are at the beginning and what they can do by the end is fun. It’s just fun.”

It’s the way it’s always been and why he’s succeeded — at Apple Valley and beyond.

“That’s what keeps me going,” Weaver said. “There are frustrations, certainly — this match would be one of them — but in the long run of things, just seeing kids be able to succeed and grow and have fun playing the game, there’s nothing better.”