Kameron Nettleton

Fred Mostrom doesn’t seek out the spotlight.

“I’m not a person that’s anxious to put himself in public,” he said at the beginning of our conversation. He didn’t have long to talk since the team’s practice was starting soon.

For years, Fred has been a fixture in the OKWU Volleyball program. He sets up the net for practice daily, even twice on some days because of the many OKWU athletic teams that all share a practice space. Head Coach Tracie Gillette refers to him as her right-hand man.

“He is so selfless,” she said. “He doesn’t ask for anything ever.”

From the Slopes to the Courts

Mostrom has volunteered for Gillette’s program since her return to OKWU as head coach in 2010, but his story with OKWU goes back even further. Gillette remembers him being around when she was a player at OKWU from 1994-98. In fact, no one seemed able to put an exact date on when Fred started volunteering for the Lady Eagles, but it’s safe to suggest his service has been well over 20 years.

“I was never interested in sports at all as a kid because I was so small,” he said. “But for some reason, volleyball just caught my eye, and I went crazy over it.”

His interest began when he was living in Aspen, Colorado. He spent twenty years living there after he fell in love with skiing, and one summer, some of the people visiting introduced him to the sport of volleyball. He was hooked right away and began to watch and play recreationally.

“I’m not quick, my jump is nonexistent, and I’m only 5’8,” he said. “I’m a good recreational player, but that’s about it.”

But his love for the sport blossomed, and when he returned to Bartlesville in the ‘90s, he was eager to find a place where he could continue to be around the game. So he asked OKWU’s coach at the time if he could observe practice.

“I just started coming to practice to watch and see what they’re doing,” he said. “And the longer I was there, the more things I would find that need to be done that they didn’t have anyone on staff to do.”

Joining the Team

It started as shagging balls during practice. Over the years, Mostrom’s contributions have grown to net setup and teardown, equipment management and repair, putting tape down on the floors, and even cleaning the gym after games.

Mostrom calculated that he spends probably 20 hours a week working for the team during the season.

“Not only does he set up the nets and tear down, he also inspects my equipment and lets me know what needs replaced,” Gillette said. “And oftentimes he takes the matter in his own hands and repairs things on his own!”

Evident when talking to Mostrom is that he takes pride in his work. It is a thankless job – part equipment manager, part gameday preparation crew, and even sometimes van driver for the team’s road games – but all of those things must get done for the matches or practices to begin without issue.

When volleyball referees prepare for a match, they carefully inspect the playing court. They check the inflation of the game balls, the height of the net, and the antenna on either side. It’s a comprehensive process.

“A good part of the referees, now when they come in and see me there, they just ignore that and go on about their business,” Fred said, “because they know they’re not going to be able to find anything wrong.”

Mostrom gets the game balls ready before a late October match.

A Dynamic Duo

The pairing of Gillette and Fred goes back many years. He was around the OKWU’s team when she was playing, and when she became the head coach at Bartlesville High School, he called her up and offered his help with her practices there. That relationship continued, and he transitioned seamlessly to helping with OKWU Volleyball when Gillette returned to campus in 2010.

“I’ve known Tracie ever since she played here, and our ages are really different, but we’re good friends,” he said. “That’s part of the reason I stayed so engaged here, although I was around to some extent before she started coaching.”

It doesn’t take very long to realize that humility is a defining trait for Mostrom. But for the hundreds of athletes who have benefited from his service, not to mention the parents and fans who’ve watched countless matches, Mostrom’s impact cannot be quantified in things as tangible as hours or the number of practice balls he’s repaired. He’s made a difference through his example of service and volunteerism.

“This is the amazing thing,” Gillette said. “When he knows we have a 6 a.m. practice, he’ll come in late the night before and set up, just so we don’t have to when we get there.”

It’s the little things, the unseen hours, that have made Fred Mostrom such an indelible fixture in the OKWU Volleyball program.

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