Palmer makes it official, steps down as HCC volleyball coach

February 02, 2001

Palmer makes it official, steps down as HCC volleyball coach

By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer

Like any good parent, Marlys Palmer put her personal life on hold for the better part of 20 years.

On Friday, it was time for her to leave the nest.

Palmer officially retired as Hagerstown Community College's volleyball coach after spending 21 years of nurturing the program from its infancy into a full-fledged power that's now old enough to stand on its own two feet.

"It was time to facilitate this," Palmer said during HCC's press conference. "It comes at the right time so that it doesn't hurt the program. I will continue to recruit until the new coach is selected."

Palmer will relinquish her duties with the volleyball team to devote her time to coaching HCC women's basketball and to teaching and running the health department.


Still, Palmer's timing was a little surprising, especially with the wave of success the program has enjoyed over the last 12 years.

Palmer was the Hawks first and only coach, starting the program in 1981 and turning it into one of the strongest teams in the region, if not the country.

The Penn State graduate finishes her tenure with a 667-162 record - an .804 winning percentage - which included nine straight Maryland JuCo Conference regular season titles from 1989-97. HCC also won nine Region XX titles and earned nine trips to the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament.

Palmer hit the pinnacle of her coaching career recently when she was inducted to the NJCAA Coaches Hall of Fame. Palmer has been on the sideline for 1,459 games over her career in the two sports.

"I have reluctantly agreed to accept that Dr. Marlys Palmer is getting older," HCC athletic director Jim Brown said. "It has been a very successful journey for Coach Palmer. From the bottom of the league to becoming the premiere program in the region. But I know here well enough to say that the greatest achievements were not personal but would be acquiring scholarships assistance for a multitude of former players."

Palmer built HCC's program even though she wasn't really familiar with the sport of volleyball. But with a lot of studying, some intestinal fortitude and a fertile stock of area talent, the program flourished.

"I never had a difficult time selling the college," Palmer said. "I always thought it was an exciting place. Athletes could come here to compete in state and national tournaments and had a chance to be All-Americans right away when they might have had to wait at a four-year school. And the academics were second to none."

"With anything in athletics, there is a margin of luck. I wasn't a volleyball player and I had no experience coaching the game. I did the old 'Fake it until you make it' style for awhile. Washington County was always ahead of everyone else in the state when it came to volleyball. I reaped the benefits of being able to get players from Williamsport and Smithsburg to come here. I worked hard to learn my craft. We weren't bottom feeders in the beginning. We didn't win championships from 1980 to 1989, but we won with enthusiasm. After that, we had a breakthrough."

Palmer told Brown of her decision to retire on Monday, but was told to take a few days to make sure.

"I went back in on Wednesday, Jim asked me it this was my final answer," Palmer said laughing. "I looked at him and said 'This is it ... I'm done.'"

Palmer will continue to recruit for the program until a new coach is selected to replace her. Brown said he could have the school's second ever volleyball coach by the end of the month.

"When Marlys took the job, there weren't very many coaches standing in line," Brown said. "Now, I don't think that will be a problem. I think there will be a lot of interest."

Palmer said she will have enough to do in her other duties to fill the extra time she created by giving up her volleyball post. And now, there might be a chance to do some personal things.

"I'd like to run the JFK 50-miler again," she said. "I haven't done it since 1985. I used to get sponsors back then and raise $1,500-2,000 for the women's scholarship fund, but then I had to stop because of the strength of the volleyball team and we were busy around Thanksgiving when they run the race."

Now that her program has grown up, Marlys Palmer will have the time again.

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