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Minnesota coach leads team to state tourney hours after nearly severing toe in farm accident

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

The media, Prep Rally included, often lauds athletes for overcoming significant pain to achieve their goals. Too often we overlook when other figures in sport overcome similar struggles. With that in mind, here's an official doff of the cap to one Minnesota volleyball coach who directed his team to the prestigious state tournament just hours after nearly completely severing his toe.

"To be honest, I told them I was leaving at 1 o'clock whether they cut it off or not," Sauk Centre (Minn.) High volleyball coach Jim Klaphake told the Sauk Centre Times. "I think the girls were distracted a little. To be honest, I feel like we could have lost the first two games."

If that sounds a bit extreme to you, don't worry, the toe wasn't lost for good. In fact, the injury came in a completely normal way for Klaphake, who spends his hours off the volleyball court as an independent farmer.

As reported by the Sauk Centre Times, Klaphake was out in a field on his farm, loading soybeans into a truck, when his right pinky toe became caught in an augur. The incident left his smallest toe barely attached to the rest of his foot.

Like any hard-nosed farmer, Klaphake kept his cool in the midst of a horrific injury. He got back into his truck and drove into the center of town, where he visited the local doctor. The doctor then immediately sent him on a journey to the nearest hospital emergency room, located in the closest significant city, St. Cloud.

Once he got there, doctors checked out the coach's foot and eventually determined that he needed surgery. Yet, as he mentioned above, Klaphake himself refused to go through with any procedure unless it would be completed swiftly enough to allow him to make his team's section final matchup.

Eventually a surgical procedure to save the toe was performed, and Klaphake made it to the section final match just minutes before it started.

It's a good thing the Streeters didn't lose that match -- they eventually prevailed 3-0 in games -- because the coach claimed that he would have felt terribly if his freak injury had kept his team from achieving its goal of a third straight state berth.

How bad would he have felt?

"That would have hurt worse than my toe," he said.

For now, the farmer is back to coach as normal, trudging up and down the sideline during games. That's a painful procedure, with Klaphake under strict instructions to keep his foot elevated. Good luck keeping him sitting down come tourney time.

"You know me," Klaphake told Times. "I can't sit still. I've got to be standing up."

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