Coach Ken became involved with Starlings in 2003. He, along with friends Dennis Herrmann and Marv Coppess, formed the very first Navajo Starlings volleyball team. The club initially went by the name Allied Gardens Starlings as players primarily attended Marvin Elementary and Lewis Middle Schools. A few years later, the Allied Gardens Starlings grew to 6 teams, and with the broader geographic spread of the clubs players, the name was changed to Navajo Starlings. Also, Ken found himself not only running the club and coaching a team, but took the position of the Southern California Regional Director, running teams in Los Angeles and growing the San Diego Club to 75 teams. While Ken is no longer a regional director, he is a Director of the National Club and a member of the Executive Committee.
Ken, along with fellow Starlings coaches were instrument in the founding of the recreation at Allied Gardens Recreation Center, the first such league in the City. From that initial season in the fall of 2005, leagues have been formed in most of the City’s Recreation Centers and the City now holds a City Championship each Spring that involves multiple age divisions.
Ken has coached 14s, 16s & 18s, and his teams have regularly placed 1st or 2nd in the County Championships and fared well in the Gold and Silver divisions at the National Championships. His most successful team to date has been his 2016 14U team that won the gold bracket at Nationals. The team, which beat a very good team from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, was the first San Diego team in any division to take first in the gold division at Nationals.
Ken’s three children played a combined 11 seasons of varsity volleyball at Henry High School. Two of the three played in college, Alanna at St. Johns and UCSD and Riley at Lewis and UC Santa Cruz. His oldest daughter has also played a season of professional ball in Italy before returning to the States to attend law school.
Ken’s mindset while he is coaching teenage girls is founded upon a recognition of how coaches throughout his youth helped form him into the person he became. While only having a desire to graduate from college and pursue the dream of playing pro baseball, he regularly recalls how Coach Jim Dietz changed his life with a single sentence spoken to him during his third year of college. The sentence was short and simple: Kenny, you are a smart kid, you can be a doctor or lawyer if you want. Changed his life.
Dennis is a native San Diegan. He played High School Volleyball at Patrick Henry when it was still a High School club sport as a setter during his senior year. After high school he continued to play in college intermeural and many years on the sand in Mission Beach.
Dennis started his coaching career when he got married and started to have children, 1 boy and 2 girls. He coached many sports like softball, basketball, baseball and soccer. Ken Rutan and he coached a couple years of softball together before they started to coach volleyball with Starlings. He has coached at Navajo Starlings VB Club since Ken asked him if his oldest daughter wanted to play volleyball 16 years ago. He has coached all age groups during his tenure at Navajo VB club. His proudest experience from coaching is having coached his daughters and have them come back to coach alongside him. The most rewarding is having his youngest daughter become an All-American her senior year of college in 2016.
Natalie was born and raised in Muncie, Indiana, the hotbed of indoor volleyball. She started in the sport at age 10 and played for her school up to the 10th grade. Natalie also played club volleyball and attended the AAU National Championships each year. During this period, her weekends were spent traveling throughout the Mid-West playing in various tournaments. She was also active with softball, tennis, figure skating, and an avid roller skater.
Natalie has 15 years of playing experience and switched over to beach volleyball in 2014. She currently plays twice a week and has passion, love, and enthusiasm for the sport as she did as a kid.
Natalie made her coaching debut in 2016 with Starlings Navajo and she says she loved every minute of it. Natalie is very competitive and firmly believes that a coach can make or break a player. Every player needs to be treated with respect and every player must know that their coach believes in them. She believes that we cannot succeed without believing in ourselves and the belief must be instilled from the coach. If we work hard and stay dedicated, there’s no obstacle that we can’t overcome.
Beth grew up in Bend, Oregon and played Middle Blocker/Hitter for Mt. View H.S. and Central Oregon VBC. As a Sr. she made All Inter-Mountain Conference 1st Team and was MVP and Team Captain. She earned a scholarship to the University of Portland, NCAA Div 1, West Coast Conference. At the University of Portland, she was named rookie of the year for Univ. of Portland and made the All Freshman WCC team. She still holds several records from her collegiate career including #1 all time in bock assists & #2 all time total blocks for U of P and is currently #7 All time in total career blocks & #9 all time in total career block assists in the WCC.
Beth's coaching experience includes several summers of coaching Marlene Piper Camps in Oregon (former Willamette University coach), Assistant Varsity Coach at Mt. View H.S. in Bend, OR and Freshman & Assistant Varsity Coach for Horizon Christian in San Diego. She has taken a 21 year break from coaching volleyball as she got married, started her career in investment management and had two children with husband, James: Jocelyn (age 10, Starlings 1st year) and Brian (age 8). She is happy to be involved in coaching again. It is her first season coaching with the Navajo Starlings and the first time coaching the 12U age bracket.