Former Alter coach nets national award

Former Alter boys volleyball coach Craig Erford hugs Josh Kabel after the Knights won the 2017 state championship. CONTRIBUTED
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Former Alter boys volleyball coach Craig Erford hugs Josh Kabel after the Knights won the 2017 state championship. CONTRIBUTED

The hard-fought titles were celebrated and accolades were appreciated but, for Craig Erford, his players were always the priority.

“They say, as a coach, that you shape lives but your players shape your life too,” he said. “They changed my life as well, in many ways, and you can’t put a price on that.”

Erford – who recently retired as head coach of the Alter boys’ volleyball team after 11 years – was recently named the 2021 United States Marine Corps/American Volleyball Coaches Association National High School Boys Coach of the Year.

“It’s a good way to end my coaching career,” he said. “It’s also a tribute to the great work that everyone in the program put in.”

In 11 years as the Knights head coach, Erford took the Alter boys to the state tournament nine times, winning six state titles. The Knights bowed out the other two seasons in the regional final. Erford coached 18 all-state players including three state players of the year.

“It’s not just the success on the court that defines Craig, it’s the journey in which he develops all of the young men in his program into a cohesive squad every year,” Alter Athletic Director Chris Hart said. “The culture that surrounds the program allows for each of his student-athletes to meet with success, on and off the court, and it continues even after they graduate from the program.”

But Erford’s impact was felt far beyond the Alter community as he has served as the president of the Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association since 2015. During his tenure, the state association added more than 30 teams – a 30 percent increase statewide.

He garnered several other awards during his head coaching tenure as an eight-time Greater Catholic League Coach of the Year, eight-time Ohio West Region Coach of the Year, and three-time State Coach of the Year.

When the 2020 boys volleyball season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Erford found himself with time for introspection.

“One of the silver linings of COVID was that it helped me put things in perspective,” he said. “I decided I want to focus more on my family and friends right now.”

Erford plans to spend some of his newly-found free time as a fan rather than a coach, watching his nieces play volleyball. Golf and tennis might also be on the agenda.

“I’m very blessed to have been part of the close-knit Alter volleyball community for all these years, it’s something I definitely don’t take for granted,” he said. “I think it’s time to pass the torch on and give someone else a chance.”

Erford by the Numbers

6 – State volleyball titles

11 – Years as Alter head coach

217 – Career coaching wins at Alter, 217-67 (.764 winning percentage)