Club Tonka was founded in 1988 to promote volleyball, primarily in Minnetonka, but also throughout the Twin Cities. At the time, the major motivator for this organization was to have a local club that would strengthen volleyball and provide a place for the founder’s daughter to participate. Since its inception, the club has drawn a majority of its players from the western suburbs, including players from 36 different communities in and around the seven county metropolitan areas and even from as far away as Wisconsin. During the 1988 Junior Olympics season, there were only 43 youth teams competing in the North Country Region (5 of which were in Club Tonka). Today there are over 4000 teams competing, within a smaller geographical area.
The Club began as an outreach program to develop youth volleyball. It was administered by the Founder Ted Fleener and assisted by friend and colleague, Liz Michaelson. In 1994, increasing skill levels of our female athletes necessitated the addition of more advanced training to meet the needs of the entire youth volleyball community. Recognizing the positive impact of Club Tonka in Minnesota, as well as its commitment to athletes, Mizuno USA agreed to sponsor the club from 1995-2002.
In 1996, Club Tonka opened an office in Minnetonka, hired an executive director and located a central practice facility (Minnetonka Christian Academy). In 1997, the club experienced a great deal of growth and expanded to seventeen teams. Much of this growth can be attributed to Club Tonka’s cooperative agreement with the Hopkins Northwind, Robbinsdale Juniors and ‘da Bears’ (of Blake School) programs.
These efforts and continued growth of the Club required some reorganization. In 1999, Director/Founder Ted Fleener started to drive Club Tonka toward the dream of offering multi-level ability athletes the chance to participate in volleyball. The goal remains to place as many athletes as possible on Club Tonka teams. At that time, Club Tonka reemphasized the commitment to help strengthen character in our young people and build better citizens. Assistant Director Melissa Erickson and Director of Coaches Scott Jackson were added to the staff.
Over the years, Club Tonka has served 36+ communities from Hastings to Lakeland to Buffalo Lake/Hector to Sauk Rapids to North Branch and Stillwater. We have averaged 16-20 teams each year and have trained over 4500 players. We continue to serve the volleyball community by offering training for young athletes at all skill levels. In 2004-05 we added training for 2nd-6th graders at the In House level. After spending over 20 years at Minnetonka Christian Academy a new chapter began for the 2019 -20 club season. We now have a facility that is equal to our program and have entered into an agreement with Eagle Ridge Academy as our primary training facility.
As we grew and made necessary changes the club has never lost sight of the reason for its existence: to support, respect, nurture and instruct our athletes in the game of volleyball and to teach life skills. Our commitment is to ensure that all of our players, parents and coaches treat each other with mutual respect, compassion and integrity both on and off the court. Our coaches’ objectives will continue to be teaching volleyball skills, while instilling a love of the game and preparing our players for a life beyond volleyball. Good sportsmanship will continue to be an unconditional responsibility of every member of the club.
Club Tonka remains committed to its founding principles based on the priorities of faith, family, education and community. In proper perspective, team sports offer valuable life skills training and the potential for great personal growth.