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Ray Bechard a Cougar living legend
Ray Bechard
Kansas Jayhawk volleyball coach Ray Bechard


LAWRENCE – Longtime Kansas Jayhawk volleyball coach Ray Bechard is one of Barton Community College’s premier coaching legends.

Bechard coached football and boys basketball at Lewis High School from 1980-83 before adding girls volleyball. The Grinnell High School graduate played basketball two years at Barton before earning his bachelor's and master's degrees at Fort Hays State.

After five years coaching Barton women’s basketball and volleyball, Bechard made the wisest choice of his career to pursue coaching volleyball full-time with the Cougars.

“I’m a basketball guy at heart, but I was enamored by the grace, energy and enthusiasm of volleyball,” he said. “I told myself to go that direction. I enjoyed the organization and communication and developing technique and game plans.”

Bechard guided the Cougars to 12 NJCAA tournaments with a 716-60 record (92%). The Cougars finished a school record 58-2 in 1989, losing the championship to NJCAA champion Miami-Dade South, Fla. Barton placed third at the NJCAA three times, fourth six times and fifth twice.

“Those were great times at Barton, finishing unbeaten at home year-after-year,” he said. “We won 12 Region 6 titles and placed in the top four at the NJCAA Tournament 10 of 12 years. We received tremendous support from the community and from Barton President Jimmy Downing.”

Bechard’s first recruiting class featured Trish Wade, the mother of NBA player Dean Wade. Wade has coached St. John to three Kansas state volleyball titles.

“Trish was a great athlete who was extremely competitive and always well prepared,” Bechard said. “My first year, we placed fourth in the NJCAA Tournament."

He coached Cougar record holders Shauna Struckoff (career serving), Heidi Sutterheim (season blocks), Terri Brown (solo blocks) and Tonia Strube (career assists).

“I started before club volleyball got going, when some of the best high school volleyball was played at schools such as Grinnell, Wheatland, Oakley and Goodland,” he said. “We made a living recruiting small-class players. Near the end, we recruited players from China and Brazil.”

In 1995, Bechard was an assistant coach for the USA Volleyball Youth National Team, which won the Slovakian Cup Championship in Zilina, Slovakia. Bechard coached alongside TCU’s Sandy Troudt and Penn State assistant Erin Tomblin when Team USA competed against youth teams from Poland and Slovakia.

Bechard has earned induction into the NJCAA volleyball, Barton Community College and Kansas Volleyball Association Hall of Fames.

The son of Adeline and Armond Wilford (A.W.) Bechard learned valuable life lessons in a family with six siblings in Grinnell.

“When you grow up in a family of nine with one bathroom, you learn to problem solve and cooperate,” he said. “It was competitive, starting with who got to read the paper first in the morning.”

Don Bechard, his brother, coached Gardner-Edgerton to the 1996 state basketball title and Manhattan to the 1987 state volleyball title. An annual KVA scholarship is donated in Don Bechard’s honor. Harold Bechard, another brother, worked as a longtime sportswriter at Salina and Hutchinson.

His mother was a teacher and his father was a WW2 veteran who served in Normandy.

“We grew up with great parental support. Our mom was a positive influence in all our lives,” he said. “Our dad was a gifted athlete. He was a wounded veteran, losing a leg when his tank got hit in Germany.”

Bechard's life changed again when Kansas' Amy Perko offered him the head volleyball job with the Jayhawks in 1997.

The 4-time Big 12 Volleyball Coach of the Year is credited for helping develop Kansas high school volleyball into a higher level.

“Our Kansas City area has developed into an epicenter for volleyball development,” he said. “We’ve created opportunities for coaches and players. Volleyball camps and club volleyball has helped the enthusiasm and growth for the level of volleyball. If you keep working at it, good things happen.”

During his 26-year tenure at the University of Kansas, Bechard (447-302) has established a first-class program with 12 NCAA appearances, a Big 12 championship (2016) and a NCAA Volleyball Final Four (2015). Bechard celebrated his birthday on the Jayhawks' recent summer trip to Slovenia, Hungary, Italy and Austria.

“Winning the Big 12 with a 15-1 record and qualifying for the NCAA Final Four were extraordinary times,” he said. “We’ve enjoyed a lot of success. I appreciate that Kansas hired me.”

Kansas (24-6, 14-4 Big 12) is projected to continue to be a Big 12 powerhouse without reigning NCAA champion Texas in the conference.

“All those big moments blend together over the years,” he said. “It's required a lot of work to get the program where it is today. We’ve accomplished goals we’re proud of. We've developed productive young women.”  

He’s thankful his proteges – St. John coach Wade, Lenexa St. James coach Nancy Dorsey, KVA Hall of Famer Tina Johnson and Jill (Dorsey) Hall, an ESPN broadcaster, have contributed in various ways in volleyball.

“It’s awesome to see the players and coaches I’ve worked with, go on to bigger and better things,” Bechard said. “I’ve truly been blessed.”

Bechard and his wife Pamela (Brown) Bechard are parents to two children and six grandchildren. 

Their daughter, Ashley, was a Kansas volleyball letterwinner from 2001-04 and married Erik Henkelman in 2011. Erik and Ashley are parents to three children – Evie, Hutchins and Mason Jane. Their son, Brennan, played on the Kansas men’s Basketball team from 2007-09 and serves as men’s basketball director of operations. He married Danielle Hayes, a Kansas track athlete. They are parents to three children – Lucy, Mack and Bo.