COLUMBIA — In an arena that seats 13,611 people, there are lots of places to hide.
“Come and find me,” the young Ryan Kreklow said into a microphone, his voice bouncing off the empty chairs.
During one of Ali Kreklow's Missouri volleyball camps, her younger brother, Ryan, took a microphone and played one of the many games he and his siblings used to entertain themselves in the Hearnes Center: hide and seek.
When your parents are both coaches of a Division I volleyball team, you become familiar with a gym. Every practice, every game becomes "take your kid to work" day.
“They were in the gym probably a week after they were born,” said Susan Kreklow, mother of three. “In fact, Ricky went to the gym at Columbia College before we went home (from the hospital) because we just stopped by there to get something. It's just part of what they do."
Prior to coaching at Missouri in 2001, Wayne and Susan Kreklow coached together at Columbia College starting in 1990. The couple have been coaching together for 23 years.
"Our coaching has always just been what we do," Susan Kreklow said. "The kids just became a part of that. They were in the gym at a very young age, like it or not."
For the boys, the gym meant basketball. The oldest, Ricky Kreklow, a junior at California, plays guard for the Golden Bears. The youngest, Ryan Kreklow, a junior at Rock Bridge, also plays basketball and hopes to continue in college.
Wayne Kreklow played at Drake from 1975-1979 and went on to play one season with the Boston Celtics, winning an NBA championship.
For Ali Kreklow, the gym has always brought her back to volleyball.
Susan Kreklow said that because her daughter was around the sport all the time, her interest and dedication can be attributed to those hours in the gym.
When their middle child was young, Susan and Wayne Kreklow spearheaded a club team for their daughter and her friends to play together. On Oct. 30, under the watchful eye of her parents, their daughter and those friends, now her Rock Bridge volleyball teammates, won the Class 4, District 9 title.
“Six of those girls have played together since the beginning,” Susan Kreklow said. “That was what really made last night special. It was special for me to see them start something and then take it to a district championship.”
Although the Rock Bridge team defeated Helias Catholic High School to claim the district title, its season ultimately came to an end in the sectional tournament with a loss to Ozark on Nov. 1.
The Bruins' postseason tournament took place at Republic High School on a Saturday that happened to fall between Friday and Sunday home matches for the Missouri team.
Wayne Kreklow, head coach of the Missouri volleyball team, said that the key to getting to their children’s games is juggling.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it didn’t, but you always found a way,” Susan Kreklow said. “All three of them were very involved at a very young age, with multiple sports, on multiple teams and that just requires multiple people.”
Sometimes those multiple people were nannies. Other times, they were teammates or coaches.
In 2005, Wayne Kreklow took over the head volleyball role for the Tigers, while his wife went from head coach to assistant. As their children continued to be more involved, however, the juggling became more difficult. In 2008, Susan Kreklow reverted to director of volleyball to be able to have a more active role in the activities of their kids.
“Part of the position I have now is because we wanted to make sure someone was available to go with the kids,” Susan Kreklow said. “I have been a head coach, I have been an assistant coach and now I’m in a director’s position. So that if I need to get away, if someone needs to stay, that’s probably the best position to stay. I don’t do it unless we have to."
Although volleyball is a large part of the Kreklows' lives, backing their children has always been the goal. When Ricky Kreklow's first game of the season was not televised, and neither parent could attend due to their own games, Susan was dejected.
With a 2,000-mile distance between California and Columbia, attendance at Golden Bear games is difficult. The parents make a point to attend as many games as possible, or at least watch them on television.
For the younger two, attendance at games and events is easier, but still a struggle with a tight schedule.
“I understand. I get it,” Ali Kreklow said. “They come to every game they can and if they can't make a game here or there, it's no sweat off my back. I totally understand that it's their job, it's what they do. It’s not normal, but I’m used to it, growing up in that atmosphere.”
Now, Ali Kreklow will be immersed in that atmosphere. On Nov. 13 she signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at Missouri, under the coaching of her parents.
The signing of their daughter marks the second of the children to play for the Tigers. Ricky Kreklow played basketball his freshman year at Missouri before transferring.
Wayne and Susan Kreklow's niece Molly Kreklow also plays volleyball for Missouri.
Although there is still another year until his youngest son graduates, Wayne Kreklow said that when the kids are gone, things might be less of a juggling act.
“In a sense it will make what we are doing here easier,” Wayne Kreklow said. “We won’t have to balance all those other things.”
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.