By Dan Ninham
By day Ryan Salmon (White Earth Ojibwe) is the Tribal Liaison for White Earth and during the night he’s the Owner/Director for Minnesota Juniors Volleyball Club.
“I started to play volleyball in Laguna Beach, CA,” said Salmon. “I was 10 years old and that was the only activity I could do that adults at the beach would allow.”
“I immersed myself into volleyball once I got into high school, on my own. I watched pro athletes and any volleyball that I could to get better,” added Salmon.
Salmon was inducted into Builder Category in the 2024 North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame (NAIAHF). He has provided youth skills clinics with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin.
He’s also a former NAIA All American volleyball player at Kendall College. “I received that honor, and it was quite significant,” said Salmon. “Kendall College won our conference championship and finished ranked sixth in the nation. I led the nation in digs/set for a couple of weeks during our season.”
Salmon’s indigenous core values defined how he practiced and competed and this also factors in in how he manages his work. He said, “While I did not experience a traditional upbringing and did not fully immerse myself in our culture until 20 years ago, it was during that time that I came to recognize and embrace our Ojibwe Grandfather Teachings, aligning them with my core values.”
“In embracing leadership roles, I am guided by: humility, honesty, compassion, respect, spirituality, bravery, and Mino Bimaadiziwin. Humility reminds me of the importance of listening and learning from the diverse voices within our community. Compassion: As we navigate the challenges and opportunities that come our way, I am dedicated to leading with a compassionate spirit. Recognizing the unique struggles and triumphs of each individual, I aim to create a space where everyone feels heard, valued, and supported.”
“I believe that by cultivating a sense of Mino Bimaadiziwin, we can collectively strive for a life that reflects not only material well-being but also spiritual, cultural, and emotional fulfillment. Bravery is essential in our pursuit of positive change. I am committed to approaching challenges with courage, standing up for what is right, and advocating for the well-being of our community. By embracing bravery, we can navigate uncertainties and pave the way for a better future,” added Salmon.
“In the summer of 1997, I was in a horrible car accident and needed surgery on my knee,” said Salmon. “The doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to play competitive sports. I was devastated. Scholarship offers were taken back, and the recovery process took longer than expected.”
“I ended up making a roster spot at UNLV. After playing at UNLV for two seasons, I was offered a full athletic scholarship to attend Kendall College. I continue to set goals, knowing that there will be distractions. As long as I keep my goal in sight, I will achieve it,” added Salmon.
In his NAIAHF bio, it states: “Beyond his achievements in volleyball, Salmon, alongside his wife, Nicole, holds the significant role of Directors at the Minnesota Juniors Volleyball Club. In this capacity, he leverages his extensive knowledge and experience to nurture young talent, providing aspiring athletes with the opportunities and guidance needed to reach their full potential. Through his leadership, Salmon plays a crucial role in shaping the future of volleyball in Minnesota.”
Salmon’s wife Nicole is a former NCAA D1 All American volleyball player at the University of Missouri. She also was an assistant coach at McNeese State University and Indiana State University and coached a few years at Hill-Murray School in Minnesota.
“Ryan is the driving success behind the business of MN Juniors,” said Nicole Salmon. “He had a dream of building this program and has worked hard to make that dream a reality. Together we have built a dream through love and strength and tough times. He is so passionate about volleyball and reaching young athletes.”
“Volleyball can be a great teacher for life as well. This is the passion behind MN Juniors (with) the whole athlete in life and sport, that is why he built something to be different from the rest,” added Nicole Salmon.