McKinstry surpasses Conser as Ohio’s winningest coach

LISBON – Dan McKinstry started his volleyball coaching career in 1978 at East Palestine without knowing much about the game.

“They came and asked me to take it because they didn’t have anyone else,” McKinstry said. “I look at them and said ‘I never played.’ I went to the physical education teacher, who was a really nice person, and she sent me some places and I started getting books to try to learn the game. That first year I was a total novice though.”

Thirty-six seasons later, McKinstry is now recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association as the state’s all-time leader in coaching wins after his Wellsville team beat Sebring, 25-8, 25-14, 25-4, Tuesday at the Division IV sectional tournament at Lisbon High School.

McKinstry, who coached volleyball at East Palestine from 1978 to 1996 and Wellsville from 1997 to present, sits at 639 wins, which is one more than former Salem coach Don Conser, who retired after the 2011 season following a 34-year career. Conser broke the state record in October 2011.

“It’s quite an honor,” McKinstry said. “I’ve had really good kids at East Palestine and Wellsville. As long I’m healthy, I’m going to keep on coaching.”

There is a matter of contention whether McKinstry is the all-time leader in wins, though. Ravenna Southeast coach Mary Tarka, a coaching veteran of 40 seasons, is sitting on 641 wins according to her records. The problem is those records were never sent in to be certified by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

“She has never sent in her records to (OHSAA),” McKinstry said. “She was recognized at the coaches convention in late July for going over 600. We talked about it at that time and she said she was at 624. I was at 620 at that point.”

McKinstry said he didn’t spend much time thinking about the record until it started sneaking up on him. He also noticed that Southeast was having a good season and that if Tarka’s math was accurate, she passed Conser a few weeks ago.

In an effort to clear things up, he called the president of the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association to see where he stood because he did not want to get credit for something he didn’t deserve.

Basically it all comes down to record keeping at this point.

“I’m on the list and she’s not,” McKinstry said. “That’s the way it stands now.”

McKinstry, who has more than 1,000 head coaching victories when you combine his totals in softball, baseball, volleyball and girls basketball, said Conser was instrumental in passing along a lot of knowledge when he first started coaching.

“I believe Don had played volleyball when he was in the service, so I went and watched his men’s teams to learn some things,” McKinstry said.

He said he also remembers sitting at an in-service day at United in 1982 and talking to Conser about the game.

“He showed me a lot of things I didn’t know. I was a real novice back then,” McKinstry. “Don has always been a good friend. I appreciate all his help.”

Wellsville’s seniors Domenica Cartwright and Brittany Clendenning said they are proud of his accomplishment and admit that he has done a lot to make them better players.

“He’s intense in practice at times, but it’s obviously working,” Cartwright said.

“He knows what he’s talking about,” Clendenning said.

Both players said that they knew he didn’t play volleyball when he was younger, but that he still talks a lot about how he played basketball and baseball in high school.

“It just goes to show you what kind of athlete he was in high school,” Cartwright said. “He knows his stuff.”

Wellsville (19-4) advances to meet Southern at 6 p.m. Thursday in the sectional final.

Jayla Martin led the Tigers against Sebring with 13 kills. Mystic Beatty added 15 point and 11 assists. Shayna Hamilton chipped in with 15 assists. Johnna Stokes had four aces and five kills. Angelica Scarabino was also sharp on the serve with three aces.

Clendenning had six kills, while Cartwright had seven points. Ashley Bennett also got in on the action with five kills and three blocks.

Sebring, led by Kelsi Settle’s five kills and one block, ends its season at 3-19.


McKinstry has not run into a situation yet where he has coached the daughter of someone who he coached earlier in his career.

“I haven’t come across that yet, but it can happen in softball soon,” McKinstry said.

McKinstry said he has seen a lot of changes in his career and said his point of biggest contention is the ball being allowed to hit the tape on the serve.

“I had a hard time with rally serving, but it’s here to stay,” McKinstry said.

McKinstry still watches a ton of video on his team and opponents.

“People say I have time to do that because I’m retired, but the truth is I’ve been doing it all along,” McKinstry said.

He said he wore out countless VCRs along the way. He’s on his second DVD player now and he said that one is just about ready to go.

Southeast is 17-6 on the season and will play West Branch tonight in Boardman Division II sectional action.