Coach offers inspiration on, off basketball court

Marlys Palmer

Marlys Palmer

April 29, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

Marlys Palmer has spent 28 years being the best health and physical education professor she can be at Hagerstown Community College.

She is a formidable opponent, motivator and teacher as the school's women's basketball coach. She even has an induction to the NJCAA Region XX Hall of Fame to prove it.

But when it comes to comprehending some simple math, she's floored.

"It's phenomenal," Palmer said. "I have 172 students this year. I average 120-140 students a semester. You start to do the math, it's huge."

Any estimates are purely unofficial, but try figuring it out by averages. Start with teaching an average of 140 students per semester, two semesters a school year, for 28 years.


Then add an average of eight new basketball players each year she coached basketball and another eight new players per season for the 21 seasons she was HCC's volleyball coach.

It works out to about 7,840 students taught and about 400 athletes coached for a grand total of 8,240 young adults who have been introduced to Palmer's energetic and enthusiastic style of instruction.

Palmer refuses to take credit for it all.

"The number doesn't mean I had an impact and changed every one of them," said the 60-year-old Palmer.

Palmer has a message she tries to convey through her teaching style and the way she lives her life.

"For the students, I want to be enthusiastic and excited in life," she said. "Even when you have problems, you have to have it. That's me ... the Energizer Bunny. That's what my students tell me when they fill out my evaluations. That I'm enthusiastic and they see that I believe in what I'm saying."

Palmer, who carries her enthusiasm over to her coaching, surpassed the 500 career victory mark last season. By using a combination of her talents and perception of her limits, Palmer has shaped the HCC women's basketball program into a traditional winner.

"I think I have had success because of my enthusiasm, I can motivate and handle all the psychological aspects of the game. I try to make (the players) feel good about themselves, play together and play at a high energy level. My people and communication skills are my strong suits."

When it comes to perceived weaknesses in coaching, Palmer admits she has surrounded herself with people who know the X's and O's of the game - such as former assistant Cathy Hammond and present assistant Bernie Semler.

Palmer strives to be positive.

How positive she has been, though, she might not have realized until last February, when she was on the verge of winning her 500th game.

"I started keeping what I call student mementos - the notes or e-mails I get from former students," Palmer said. "Sometimes, I wish I would have done it sooner because it can be uplifting."

She noted that "Certain jobs put you in a position to make an impact and do more in the helping services. I'm very aware of that and take that seriously. I feel I'm a role model. It pains me when I should have reached out to a person and didn't. I hate it when a student makes a wrong decision. I hope we can light a fire under their possibilities."


Name: Marlys Palmer

Occupation: Professor & women's basketball coach

What was your proudest moment?: "Personally, it would be when I received my doctorate from Penn State." Overall, "it is to see a student that is struggling 'get it' and then be able to excel."

Whom do you most admire and why?: "Professionally, Jim Brown. I worked with him for 23 years and he is so able to motivate. He was a great college fundraiser and had vision to make it all happen. I can see that every time I come to work and walk into this building. He's a trusted leader and a good friend."

What is the best advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: "Family advice, my grandmother was strong and she instilled in me that a woman can do whatever she wants. She was ahead of her time. But my father's was just as big. He ... told me not to waste my college education. He saw me doing a lot of different things after I got out of school and was concerned that I wasn't using my education to the fullest."

What is the next goal you'd like to achieve?: "I just read on Easter morning about blending work with ways to improve the positive. To be a positive impact and be a vehicle for the positive no matter what it is. Professionally, I'd like to be able to maintain the tradition at HCC for the years I have left to work."

The Herald-Mail Articles