Voyageur Mentor Has Lifelong Impact at Rainy River

Voyageur Mentor Has Lifelong Impact at Rainy River

Rochester, MN- 

As part of the National Girls and Women in Sport Day celebration across Minnesota, and the United States, the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is running a three-part series to celebrate the role that sports have in the lives of women and girls in our communities around the state.  At  our goal is to highlight a team, a coach/administrator and an athlete which are featured to bring attention to this important day.  With hundreds of student-athletes, dozens of teams and almost 30 women in key coaching and sport administration roles in the MCAC, it would be impossible to highlight every great story around the league.  We hope our fans, friends and followers of the MCAC enjoy our feature stories and be sure to use our social media feeds on Facebook and Twitter to post and tweet in telling the stories of women and girls in sport in your MCAC community and campus. 

A notable part of the fabric of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is the role and impact that women have had in coaching and sport administration among member schools.  Like many small colleges, coaches and athletic directors in the MCAC wear many hats, often coaching one (or more) sports, teaching classes and keeping tabs on administrative duties.  Several current mentors and leaders are among the first to campus in the morning for classes, squeeze administrative duties in throughout the day and head to the court, field or diamond in the early evening. Add on to that list recruiting travel and team management, one finds a full day very quickly.  Dozens of women who lead through sport have this routine every day around the MCAC; however, almost no one has done it longer or better, than Rainy River's Mel Millerbernd.  

The Minnesota College Athletic Conference recently caught up with the Voyager Athletic Director and Volleyball coach, who plies her trade in International Falls, Minnesota on the campus of Rainy River Community College.  For more on Voyageur Athletics and the RRCC campus, please visit:


MCAC Sports: What is your favorite Rainy River coaching memory or moment?:

Mel Millerbernd: "I have many great memories of coaching at Rainy River Community College. Advancing to the Region Tournaments was always a goal and a great accomplishment.  Since we are the smallest college in the MCAC, I feel like we are always the "underdogs".  But even though we are small, we play with big hearts.  It is so satisfying to watch athletes accomplish a goal and to believe in themselves.  It makes me feel good that I have had the opportunity to make a difference in so many athletes' lives."


MCAC Sports:  How long have you served in the dual coaching and Athletic Director roles?:

Mel Millerbernd:  "This was my 29th year of coaching volleyball and being athletic director at Rainy River Community College. My win-loss record is: 438-411.  When I was first hired in 1989, Dave Horner was Men's AD and I was women's AD.  When he retired in 2002 I took over the Athletic Director duties for both men and women."


MCAC Sports:  How are the current season's going for Rainy River this winter?:

Mel Millerbernd:  "Basketball is going very well. Both the men's and the women's teams are leading the North Division, and Softball and Baseball will begin soon. We are working to rebuild our Women's hockey team. I am so proud of how hard our coaches work to recruit, practice, and compete."


MCAC Sports: Please describe a typical week of coaching, teaching, and AD at RRCC:

Mel Millerbernd:  "My life is more hectic during the volleyball season.  I basically teach Lifetime Wellness, Chemical Abuse, and Nutrition. Then I prepare my plan for practice. (I would advise coaches to ALWAYS prepare a practice plan – keeps you focused and organized). As athletic director I am in charge of having everything ready for home or away games.  The most difficult part of my job is recruiting.  If I don't have a game I will probably attend a high school volleyball game looking for potential players.  This is difficult because of our remote location, but it seems that once an athlete commits to us and moves to Int'l Falls, they love it.  Once volleyball is done I am in charge of all AD duties of our other sports. It is a lot of work, but I love it so it doesn't even feel like a job!"


MCAC Sports:  Can you tell us one of your favorite parts of your role at RRCC?:

Mel Millerbernd:  "My favorite part of working at Rainy River is all the relationships I have formed.  I have had the opportunity to coach so many talented athletes.  It is really special that many of them continue to keep in touch.  I have also formed special relationships with the faculty, staff, and administration at Rainy River.  We all support each other and work hard to build a positive environment for student athletes to continue their journey. We are Voyageurs!"


MCAC Sports: You have had a chance to watch the MCAC (formerly the MCCC) change and evolve over the years.  What are your thoughts as to how it is growing?: 

Mel Millerbernd: "The MCAC is an awesome organization. I have met so many great people and formed lifelong friendships with a lot of them.  I have also had the opportunity to be the Region 13 Assistant Director for 15 years.  Being able to attend leadership meetings, travel, and help establish policies has been a real privilege."

To learn more about the 32nd Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) at the national level, visit:

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This release sponsored in part by Gopher Sport. 

Gopher Sport, based in Owatonna, is an industry leader in Physical Education, sports and fitness equipment.  Gopher Sport is dedicated to providing programs and departments with the products to improve fitness, develop skills, create fun and reach a high standard of learning and living. Gopher Sport has diligently served teachers, coaches and athletic directors around the world for over 65 years. 

About the Minnesota College Athletic Conference

The Minnesota College Athletic Conference is the organizational body for NJCAA-affiliated two-year technical and community college athletic programs in the Minnesota State system.  The mission of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is to advance intercollegiate athletics by providing an engaging and supportive environment for success of our student athletes and competition among member institutions.  The MCAC is committed to the guiding principles of encouraging the development and success of student athletes, promoting the integrity, honesty and loyalty to member schools as well as upholding the sustainability of conference athletic programs.

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