Coaches retiring: Pein and Perkins ending successful careers

Richard Pein

Richard Pein, UW-L head swimming and diving coach

Two long-time UW-L coaches are retiring. Head swimming & diving coach Richard Pein will retire at the end of the 2011-12 season, completing his 30th season with the Eagles’ swimming program.

“I think it’s time,” said Pein. “This is a chance for my wife, Jill, and I to go and do some of the things we’ve saved for and dreamed of doing.”

Head volleyball coach Sheila Perkins retired after completing her 18th season in October, but is continuing to teach in UW-L’s Exercise and Sport Science Department.

“I’m going to narrow my focus on the academic side and concentrate on one area,” says Perkins. “We’ve had great student-athletes here who have overachieved in every aspect of their collegiate life in volleyball and academics. It’s been a great run and I am honored to have been given the opportunity to work with these outstanding women.”

Coach Pein

A campaign to raise funds for the naming of the swimming and diving facility in honor of Pein has begun. The overall fundraising target is $50,000 with a one-year goal of $15,000. If the one-year goal is raised, the facility will be named after Pein and fundraising will continue to raise the remaining money.

Pein, inducted into the UW-L Wall of Fame in 2006, took over the men’s program in 1979 and proceeded to guide the squad to a 10th-place finish at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Championships that same year. On the men’s side, UW-L has placed among the top-20 nationally in either the NAIA or the NCAA in 11 of Pein’s 30 seasons. The Eagles finished 22nd at the 2010 national championships, their best showing since a 16th-place result in 1993.

He added the women’s swimming program to his coaching duties prior to the 1985-86 season. Pein has since coached the women’s program to four NCAA III top-12 finishes, including a school-best fifth-place showing in 2003-04. UW-L also scored a school record 215.0 points at the 2004 NCAA III Championships. UW-L was seventh at the 2010 national championships and eighth in 2009. Pein also led UW-L to two NAIA top-20 finishes.

“I really like this age group (18-22) that I’ve worked with and developing them into adults,” said Pein. “I seem to really fit well with that group for some reason. I can genuinely say I have liked the people who have come and gone through our program.”

He led UW-L to its first WIAC women’s title since 1978 with a championship in 1997-98 and has led the Eagles to six of the last 10 conference titles overall. The team won four consecutive conference crowns from 2002-05, marking the first time in school history UW-L had won four straight WIAC women’s swimming and diving titles. The Eagles became the first team since UW-Eau Claire (1995-97) to win three consecutive women’s championships with their victory in 2003-04.

Pein has been named Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Men’s Coach of the Year six times and Women’s Coach of the Year 10 times. In addition, he was named the NCAA Division III Women’s Swimming National Coach of the Year in 2003-04 for the Eagles’ fifth-place national finish. Pein was selected the NAIA District 14 Coach of the Year in 1990-91 after leading the men to an 11th-place finish at the NAIA championships and the women to a 13th-place finish.

He has coached the men’s program to a 129-74 (.635) won-loss record in dual meets, and has compiled a 114-35 (.765) dual mark in 23 seasons with the women’s program. UW-L is 48-3 (.941) in women’s duals the last 10 seasons.

Pein earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in 1971 and received his master’s degree from Illinois State University in 1979. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee in 1990. Before coming to UW-L, Pein served as assistant coach at Bowling Green University, Oakland University (Mich.) and Illinois State.

He taught in UW-L’s Exercise Sport Science Department for 29 years.

“One of the most enjoyable things of being here has been the interplay of ideas between faculty, staff and coaches,” added Pein. “I think we have all benefited from being around so many intelligent people. I’ve seen a lot of changes over the past 30 years, including the improvement of our academic standards. UW-L really attracts top-notch people.”

“Coach Pein has been a part of the fabric of this athletic program for three decades,” said UW-L Director of Athletics Josh Whitman. “The accomplishments of his teams speak for themselves, but what is much more meaningful is the impact that he has had on the lives of the hundreds of student-athletes who have come and gone through that pool. Rich’s strength is his ability to connect with his student-athletes. There is great mutual respect and affection between Rich and the members of his team.

“He is one of the best coaches I have ever been around,” added Whitman. “ It seemed only fitting, given that Rich has spent the bulk of his adult life patrolling that pool deck, to honor him by putting his name on the pool facility itself.”

UW-L will begin a national search in early 2012 to identify Pein’s successor.

The Eagles began their 2011-12 season Saturday, November 5 at the Northfield (Minn.) Invitational.

People can contribute to the Rich Pein Pool Campaign by contacting the UW-La Crosse Athletics Office (608) 785-8616 or online.


Former UW-L head volleyball coach Sheila Perkins

Former UW-L head volleyball coach Sheila Perkins

Perkins guided UW-L to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Tournament in four of the last nine years, including two trips to the national quarterfinals. The Eagles finished 33-6 in 2003 as Perkins was named the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Coach of the Year for the first time in her career. She led the Eagles to a share of the school’s first conference championship since 1986 and claimed their first WIAC Tournament title in school history.

UW-L was 31-7 in 2004 and made its second consecutive appearance in the national quarterfinals before falling to Washington University (Mo.). The Eagles finished ninth in the final 2004 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Poll.

The Eagles were 28-12 overall and 6-2 in the WIAC in 2008. UW-L made its 12th appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament, advancing to the regional semifinals.

“Coach Perkins is concluding a remarkable coaching career here at UW-L,” said Director of Athletics Josh Whitman. “For nearly two decades, she has provided leadership and direction to our volleyball program and influenced the lives of hundreds of student-athletes. She has had the longest tenure, and won more matches, than any coach in our program’s proud history. Coach Perkins has been a valued member of our coaching staff and is a regular attendee at other Eagles athletic events. In addition, she is an excellent teacher, and we are pleased that UW-L’s students will continue to enjoy the benefit of her classroom instruction. We wish Sheila all the best as she moves onto her next chapter.”

Perkins was 494-327 (.602) in 23 years as a collegiate head coach, including 392-216 (.645) in 18 seasons at UW-L. Her 392 wins are the most in school history and rank sixth in the WIAC. Perkins led the Eagles to 20-win seasons 14 of the last 17 years and six NCAA Division III Tournament appearances in the last 15 years. UW-L went to post-season play in back-to-back years (1997, 1998) for the first time since the mid-’80s.

Eight UW-L players earned AVCA All-America awards under Perkins’ tutelage while 25 players earned a total of 45 WIAC honors, including a pair of player of the year awards. The Eagles also earned 18 AVCA All-Region honors.

“The game of volleyball has changed several times in my career, from side-out, to 30 points for a win, to adding the libero and now to the 25-point game,” added Perkins. “It has really helped in the development of skills for the student-athlete.”

She has served as the director and lead instructor of summer volleyball camps at UW-L, serving between 400 and 600 local and regional high school and junior high school students. Perkins also started the Jr. Eagle Volleyball Community Program serving over 60 individuals each spring.

The UW-L volleyball program has served the larger community under Perkins’ leadership, aiding La Crosse County Health & Human Services in their Back to School Back Pack & Clothes Closet Program as well as the Kane Street Garden Harvest. The Eagles have also participated in numerous Breast Cancer Awareness Events and the College Relay for Life since 2001.

The success continued off the court as well as the UW-L volleyball team has earned the AVCA Team Academic Award for the last 11 years, the longest active streak in NCAA Division III. The Eagles have also had three WIAC Scholar-Athletes under Perkins.

Prior to her arrival at UW-L, Perkins posted an 86-83 record in five seasons at the University of Minnesota-Morris. Perkins led the Cougars to a 28-11 record in 1992 to advance to the NAIA I District 13 playoffs. She rebuilt a program which suffered through a 6-26 record her first season. She also served as head softball coach.

Other collegiate head coaching experience included a two-year stint at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., from 1980-82. She posted a 16-28 mark in two seasons. Perkins also served as head volleyball, basketball and softball coach at Rainy River Community College in International Falls, Minn., where she compiled a 35-90-9 volleyball record in five seasons.

“I started coaching when there was not a high school state tournament for girls in any sport,” said Perkins. “It has been gratifying to see the growth of women’s sports and the opportunities that are now available to girls and women, but there is still work to be done.”

She spent four years coaching in the prep ranks in the Cottonwood Public School system as head coach of the volleyball, basketball and track programs.

In 34 years as a volleyball head coach at all levels, Perkins has compiled a career record of 561-429.

The Menoken, N.D., native earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and coaching from North Dakota State University in 1974. In 1983, she received a master’s degree in education and health, physical education and recreation from Northern State University, where she served as graduate assistant coach in volleyball, basketball and softball.

Perkins is a member of AAPHERD and the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association.

– Courtesy of UW-L Athletics. Find more athletics stories at

Featured in the Winter 2011-12 Magazine