Spotlight ArchivePatrick Bonnot
Anthony "Tony" Brenneke
For the first time ever (we think), The Foundation For The Benefit of Helias Catholic High School is featuring an opposing coach in this month's Alumni Spotlight. But after you read his words (and we sincerely hope you do), you'll soon realize what a shining example this young man is and what a positive light he brings to the Helias alumni community.
Trevor Koelling graduated from Helias Catholic High School in 2016. He is the son of Robert (HHS '89) and Tracey Koelling, and is the oldest of three incredibly athletic Crusader siblings. His sister Taylor graduated in 2019 and was a member of the cross country and girls basketball teams, while his youngest sister Adalyn is a current sophomore at Helias and plays volleyball, basketball and soccer.
Trevor was also a member of the Helias basketball team (consequently while carrying on his family's tradition of wearing #44). He served as the team's co-captain and earned all-district honors during his senior year while helping lead the Crusaders to a third-place finish at the 2016 MSHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships Final Four at Mizzou Arena. During his time on the court as a Crusader (which also included a 3rd place finish at State in 2014), Trevor earned the respect and admiration of his coaches, teammates, and local media for his leadership, work ethic and tenacity – all attributes that would help him succeed after graduating from Helias.
Despite starting his post-high school journey at Missouri State University, Trevor eventually wound up at Mizzou where he would graduate with a Bachelors of Psychology (minor in Multicultural Studies). He is also currently enrolled in MU's medical program.
Today "Coach" Koelling serves as the head volleyball coach at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, where he also teaches AP Psychology, is a member of the multicultural committee and one of the sponsors of the school's GSA. Outside of his duties with the Bruins, he also serves as Club Director for the Missouri Juniors Volleyball Club in Columbia, overseeing nine teams across seven different age groups for one of the newest volleyball clubs in the area.
Of course, we can't feature Coach K and not mention the incredible run his Bruins volleyball team made in only his first year at the helm in 2021. Koelling took over the Bruins volleyball program following the departure of their previous head coach, fellow Helias alum and former Columbia College star Nicole Murphy. In his first year, Koelling helped lead Rock Bridge to an undefeated Central Missouri Athletic Conference record and their second consecutive district championship – at Helias's Rackers Fieldhouse and against Helias, no less (we know… Helias volleyball folks might feel a certain way about this, but still…). He also guided the Bruins to their first ever state tournament appearance (a first for Columbia Public Schools as well) and a fourth-place overall finish in Class 5. The Bruins' 35-6 record was the winningest in the program's history. His players also earned more all-district and all-state honors and nominations than any other year in the school's history.
Q & A
HF: What are some of your fondest memories from your years at Helias?
TK: Looking back at my time as a Crusader I think I remember the dedication of the staff. Teacher were always there to help and the administration went above and beyond to make events like homecoming, prom, and spirit week great. I was also blessed to be on the basketball team that got 3rd in state twice. My time spent in athletics inspired me to continue that path as an adult.
HF: What impact did Helias and/or your teachers/coaches/etc. make on you? Any specific examples?
TK: The teachers at HCHS truly cared about their students as people and as learners. Coaches pushed us passed what we thought was possible while always building us up in confidence and as well-rounded people.
HF: Favorite Helias class or teacher? Any particular reason?
TK: My favorite teacher at Helias was Brother Steven. I enjoyed him because his class was tough but his personality made it fun. You knew when you came to his class you were expected to pick up the information quickly but he always saved time for a travel story, fun fact, or extra credit question.
HF: What were you known for at Helias?
TK: At Helias I was known for groups I was involved in. I was a captain of the basketball team, student council member, and president of club international. Through my time in these leadership positions, I was able learn skills that I still use today. Athletics is a busy business to be in and my time in these leadership groups taught me lessons in organization, public speaking, and courage.
HF: It's only been five years since you graduated, but as the oldest of three Helias-educated siblings, how is Helias today different from Helias when you were a student?
TK: I think the biggest difference to me is seeing how much growth has happened since I've left. When I arrived as a freshman the athletics and fine arts add-ons were only thoughts. When I graduated, they had broken ground to build these facilities. To come back now and see the expansion of facilities and the growth in enrollment is encouraging. I know that many other students get to have a chance at experiencing their high school years surrounded by the same love and support I was given.
HF: How did your experience(s) at Helias (as a student and/or an athlete) prepare you for the role you're in now?
TK: As a high school coach, I now get to shape other students high school experiences. I think I tech my players some of the same lessons that were taught to me at Helias. I understand the impact I may have on them because of the great impact that my coaches had on me.
HF: Describe how you went from being a decorated basketball player at Helias to the current district championship winning volleyball coach at Rock Bridge, all within a 5-year span.
TK: I always loved volleyball, but living in the middle of Missouri meant men's volleyball wasn't readily available. I decided when I went to college it would be something I would have to cultivate my own opportunities from. I got involved playing club volleyball for Missouri State and was able to meet the NCAA Women's coaching staff through this. They offered me a position as a student assistant and I started learning the sport at a hyper rate. I transferred from Missouri State to Mizzou after my sophomore year to be closer to home. It was then that I got involved as a coach for Missouri Juniors Club volleyball. I was also able to get in contact with the Mizzou staff, and (then-Missouri volleyball head coach) Wayne Kreklow hired me as a volunteer assistant. I served in rolls of volunteer assistant, practice player, student assistant and finally director of volleyball operations under both Wayne Kreklow and Josh Taylor. I think I jumped at the opportunity to take over the Rock Bridge position once it became available. It has turned into one of the biggest blessings of my life and I'm so grateful for the success we've had under my first year.
HF: Who or what drives you or inspires you to be successful?
TK: I think I just love to compete. This is a sport where I had to go out on my own and make my own opportunities. It drives me because I don't want to let myself down or give up any of the work I've built around myself. I think for some, I serve as an example that if you really, really want something it's okay to go out on your own and work to make your passion a reality. I think being successful in that serves as a great example.
HF: Based on your personal experience, which is more fulfilling – success as a player, or success as a coach? Why?
TK: I think success as a coach is more fulfilling. The look on my players' faces when they accomplish something that they did not think was possible is the most rewarding thing I've ever experienced. I think that sometimes my players teach me more than I teach them because of their willingness to work and their drive to be the best. I also find it fulfilling to be a leader to them and work with them to build trust in life. Being the person that they lean on and look to while also getting to be around the sport I love has to be the best job in the world.
HF: How would you describe yourself as a coach?
TK: I think as a coach I am fun yet stern. I care greatly about my players' mental health and I want to make sure everyone enjoys coming to practices and games every time. I also hold them accountable for performance and learning and I push them to be the best versions of themselves as volleyball players. I think because I am young my players find me relatable which I have found to be one of my biggest strengths when trying to get through to them.
HF: What do you think is the most important part of your job?
TK: The most important part of my job is making sure the girls leave me loving sports more than when I got them. It's teaching them life lessons and using volleyball as a catalyst for that. I think that if all my players leave me with a lasting relationship and a great love for the sport, I have then successfully done what I am meant to do.
HF: What positives and/or challenges do you encounter while working and coaching in a public school setting that people who have spent all their time in private schools might not understand or have an appreciation for?
TK: I think public school have given me a broader view of diversity. I think often times private schools have a bubble that is a little more closed than the public schools. Seeing students from every background converge into the same space and share their ideas is truly eye-opening and makes me a better version of myself.
HF: Set the stage and describe the scene: What did that district championship game at Helias mean to you and your family?
TK: It was a bit bittersweet. My first-year coaching and in order to make a post season run I have to beat my alma matter who is coached by the man who gave me my first ever volleyball lesson? Come on, couldn't it have been anyone else?! I have friends whose kids play for Helias and whose kids I've coached in the club side of volleyball, so going into the match I was actually quite emotional. I want those girls to be winners and I know they still are. I think it made my family very proud to see me doing what I love and on a stage in front of so many people who see me as a leader in the sport of volleyball.
HF: What makes you proud to say you're a Crusader?
TK: It makes me proud of be a Crusader because of the outstanding foundation that was laid for me, both academically and socially. I think being built on faith has served me well many times. I am proud to be able to come back and watch my little sister play and know that when I come back, I am welcomed with opened arms and amazing hospitality.
HF: What does "Helias Community" mean to you and your family?
TK: Helias community means there is a safe space of people who are willing to build you up when you need it. It means there is a home no matter how far away from home you are. And it means that you use the community as a support system when you need one and act as a support system for the community when it needs you.
Do you know a graduate of Helias who deserves to be featured in an upcoming Alumni Spotlight? It doesn't matter whether they still live here in this community, or if they're doing big things somewhere far away. If we can reach them, we'd love to feature them. Please feel free to send us a name, contact information, and a brief description of why you feel they deserve to be recognized to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (573) 635-3808. We want everyone to know what our Crusaders are doing, regardless of when they graduated or where they live. If they're an example to you, they can be an example to many, and we'd love to tell their story!
To nominate someone for the Alumni Spotlight, email email@example.com.