Sergeant Major Volley H. (Bob) Cole, first coach in USA Luge history, passes
by Sandy Caligiore
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – A USA Luge pioneer racer and coach, and founding member of the International Luge Federation (FIL), passed away peacefully on May 12.
Retired Sergeant Major Volley H. (Bob) Cole was a team member and coach with the United States national and Olympic teams and an FIL official from 1957-72, including stints at three Olympic Games. He represented the U.S. at the 1957 World Championships, the first such event under the banner of the FIL.
Sergeant Major Cole was instrumental in the sport’s break from the International Bobsleigh and Toboggan Federation (FIBT) and helped establish the FIL in 1957. At the first luge world championships that year, Bob was on the first American team to ever compete in that prestigious event. He continued to compete in Europe at the top luge events of that era.
Cole’s interest in sliding sports actually started in bobsledding as a youth. In 1960, Sergeant Major Cole was asked by the U.S. military to organize an American luge program abroad as there were no U.S. facilities at the time. He spent many years in Germany putting the U.S. team together and recruited athletes who were stationed in Germany and had experience in winter sports. Those early teams trained with Poland, Germany and Austria in the years leading up to the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria when luge made its Olympic debut.
Bob continued as the team’s Olympic advisor in 1968 and was an FIL official in 1972. After those Games in Sapporo, Japan, Cole remained as a coach and Olympic officer traveling the world for international meetings each year. Volley was an FIL Vice President for two terms, and in 1990, became an Honorary Member of the organization.
After completely retiring, Cole and his wife, Mary, spent 30 years in the Phoenix area where he enjoyed rounds of golf with his many friends.
“Volley was a legend in USA Luge circles,” said Gordy Sheer, USA Luge Director of Marketing and Sponsorships, and a 1998 Olympic silver medalist. “I was lucky enough to talk with him over the years. Always great to hear his stories of the early days of sliding domestically and internationally. He really was the main organizer of all things USA Luge through 1972. He was a pioneer and will be missed.”
Bob appeared in an addition of the Blink Podcast in December 2021. Luge fans will find the podcast at: https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Luge/NEWS/2020/December/01/Blink-Podcast
Volley was born in Richland, Ark. He joined the U.S. Army when he was 14 years old and was 90 years of age at the time of his death in Arizona.
Cole served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring after 30 years as a highly-decorated Sergeant Major. Upon leaving the military, he joined the civilian work force as a contractor for McDonnell Douglas Aerospace Corporation in Saudi Arabia, where he worked for 10 years.
Volley is survived by Mary, to whom he was married for 48 years. He also leaves behind his sister, a lengthy list of loving children, grandchildren, great grand-children and step-children.
Full military funeral services will be announced for Mt. Vernon Veteran and Mortuary Funeral Home in Fair Oaks, Calif. Flowers are welcome, or donations can be made in Volley’s name to the American Cancer Society.
In the November 2011 issue of the FIL Magazine, Cole remarked, “Luge made me a better person and a better father. It helped me to mature and to grow. Sports are important to build character and develop self-esteem. I think it is essential for young parents to involve their children in sports. It keeps them out of trouble and if they start young they will continue until they are adults and will excel in life.”
Volley H. (Bob) Cole – USA Luge founding father - May he rest in peace.