Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Cindy Gannon, an inspiration on and off the court

Monday, April 25, 2022

Since SEMO’s founding as a teacher’s college in 1873, only two coaches have established a winning culture in their respective sports that is still present today. The first is baseball coach Mark Hogan, and the second is volleyball coach Cindy Gannon.

Gannon, who was recently inducted into the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Hall of Fame, tallied 366 victories and five OVC Tournament crowns and was named OVC Coach of the Year on four occasions during her 16-season tenure. Under her coaching, she made SEMO a dominant force in the OVC.

SEMO’s success in the OVC in the ‘90s included five straight OVC Championship titles. Gannon said her success stemmed more from the players than herself.

“It’s all about the players and culture you create. It’s easy when you have good players, let’s put it that way. I think as a coach, you have to build the foundation. You have to build the base. And then, you've got to find the players that can keep that stability within your program. Then, your players become your best coaches,” Gannon said.

Amy Sheehan, former setter for SEMO in 1998 and 1999, was a keystone in SEMO’s five consecutive OVC titles. She described Gannon as a parental figure who expected nothing but the best from her players.

“I think we were all scared of Coach Gannon, but in a good way,” Sheehan said. “She cared about everybody, and yes, she was hard, but she expected nothing but our best to be given, whether it was in the classroom, whether it was on the court or whether it was outside of either one of those. She always told us that we were representing SEMO, and always do it with your best, and she wouldn't take anything less.”

After stepping away from coaching in 2004, Cindy took on a new challenge as senior women’s administrator, where she served the college until her retirement in 2018. Cindy retired for all of four weeks before she took up a new project. She now works for the Cape Catfish alongside Mark Hogan as the assistant general manager.

Gannon took the phrase student-athlete to heart. Not only did her players succeed on the court, but under Gannon, SEMO earned seven American Volleyball Coaches Association Academic honors for excellence both on the court and in the classroom.

On April 2, 2022, during the 14th-annual Cindy Gannon Walk for Women, Gannon became the first female coach in SEMO history to be inducted into the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame. Gannon said she can’t take all the credit for herself.

“I was just blessed with great administrators, great players and great assistant coaches,” Gannon said. “Coaching involves luck in some ways; I mean, I'm not saying it's all luck, but you know, everything just falls into the right place, and I'm just honored to be a part of such a distinguished group of people in the OVC.”

Sheehan said she is not surprised Gannon was inducted into the OVC Hall of Fame.

“I had no doubt that Coach Gannon would earn this prestigious award,” Sheehan said. “She was an amazing coach, and more importantly, an amazing person.”

Sheehan is currently head volleyball coach at O'Fallon Township High School and said Gannon’s coaching methods have influenced her coaching style.

“I learned from her to treat everybody equally, whether they're a starter or a practice player, but that's what I got from her, and I learned to expect nothing but the best from my players,” Sheehan said.

In 2008, Gannon started the Walk for Women. Gannon has a passion for student athletes and said the intended purpose of the walk is to celebrate women in sports and to benefit young athletes through scholarships.

“The intention of it really was to take a day to celebrate women's athletics, and to appreciate people in the community that donate to this cause,” Gannon said. “The scholarships are over a half a million dollars now. So, the number of student athletes that this has impacted has just been incredible. And that was the whole intent.”

The annual event is now named after Gannon, and in 2021, raised more than $33,000. Since its inception in 2008, a total of $567,000 has been raised for athletic scholarships.

SEMO has built upon Gannon’s success, once again winning the OVC crown in 2021. Current Redhawk’s coach Julie Yankus said Gannon’s legacy has impacted the success of her team.

“I think having that winning culture and seeing that the players we recruit now, even though they don't know those players because they weren't around, can still see the history and know that there is an expectation that we want to keep winning those championships,” Yankus said.

Gannon is an inspiration to young women in sports and has been an influential figure in the Cape Girardeau area. Her generosity through the March for Women has touched the lives of many young athletes, and her accolades as a coach make her one of the greatest coaches in SEMO history.

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