Prep Sports

Virg Cerveny left legacy of coaching bowling and much more in Cedar Rapids

Ogden column: 'He lived to coach' and mentored many bowlers

Coach Virgil Cerveny, who died earlier this month, lived for moments like this, instructing Erin Jones at practice in 20
Coach Virgil Cerveny, who died earlier this month, lived for moments like this, instructing Erin Jones at practice in 2001. (The Gazette)

He lived to coach.

Those four words were part of the obituary for Virgil Cerveny, a man who impacted “two or three generations” of bowlers in and around Cedar Rapids as coach at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School and Mount Mercy University.

He lived to coach.

“He almost never turned that part of him off,” said Andy Diercks, the head men’s and women’s coach at Mount Mercy, where “Virg” helped coach for nearly 10 years.

Cerveny died Oct. 4 — 18 days shy of his 76th birthday. Although he was too sick to join the Mustang teams this year, Diercks was hopeful he would show up one day to offer some sound advice to a talented freshman class.

“Listen,” Diercks told his young bowlers if Cerveny ever showed up, “it’s probably going to be golden.”

Diercks said Cerveny even “coached” opponents from time to time when competing in league play, much to the chagrin of his teammates. If he saw someone doing something wrong “he would help him,” Diercks said.

He was an outstanding bowler, too. He was inducted to the Iowa State Bowling Hall of Fame (in the performance category) as well as the Cedar Rapids Hall of Fame.

But, as his obit noted, he lived to coach.

He coached at Jefferson for more than 25 years, long before the sport was sanctioned in Iowa. He coached the J-Hawks to six state team titles and coached two individual champions. In 2015, he received the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Golden Plaque of Distinction Award for his service.

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“He poured everything he had into coaching, patiently taking the time to draw from his vast knowledge of the game to apply it for each individual,” his obit noted. “His mentorship reached into the lives of his players as well, guiding them through an important time in their lives.”

Diercks said while Cerveny was a talented bowler, “I think his legacy will be a little bit more of a coach than a bowler.

“... not only as a coach of bowlers, but a coach of other coaches.”

Diercks remembers some encouraging words he got from Cerveny when Diercks was a young coach at Linn-Mar.

“I don’t think I would be coaching college if Virg had not come into my life,” he said.

In this business, we often have people we reach out to for background or help with a story. Cerveny was our “go-to” guy when it came to high school bowling.

“He really paid attention to high school bowling,” Diercks said.

He also “filled” another role for Diercks. He and Cerveny became close soon after Diercks’ father died.

“It’s a very big loss personally, professionally — everything,” Diercks said, his words halting. “He was a mentor, a friend, a model for who to be as a human being.”

Diercks was thrilled to talk about Cerveny, who grew up in Walford and graduated from Prairie High School before joining the Navy.

“He was so humble,” Diercks said. “It was never about him.

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“I’m glad he’s finally getting the recognition he never wanted but always deserved.”

A great bowler, a great person and, of course, a great coach.

That’s a pretty darn good legacy.

He lived to coach.

Comments: (319) 398-8416; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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