Graham’s historic run comes to end

Published 5:19 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Glen Graham’s Isabella volleyball teams won a lot of games—364 of them in 14 seasons, to be exact.

But Graham said his focus was always on how he could use his role as coach to help people improve their lives. It is that desire that allowed Graham to leave a program he built and took to great heights.

Graham, the Clanton Advertiser’s Coach of the Year, recently resigned to take a job as a physical education instructor at Jacksonville State University, where he attended college.

Founding father: Glen Graham started the Isabella volleyball program in 1998 and led the Mustangs to 364 wins, four Chilton County tournament championships, 14 area titles, four region titles and nine appearances in the state tournament.

He said deciding to leave Isabella, and then informing everyone of his decision, are some of the hardest things he’s ever had to do.

“All my career, I’ve tried to be a teacher first,” Graham said. “And hopefully, in this job, I’m going to have a chance to influence future coaches who will go out and do their job and care about the kids.”

Another reason for Graham’s decision is his desire to spend more time with his family, something that was difficult to do when spending days as a teacher and evenings as a coach.

Graham and his wife, Leah, have two children. Sarah, 14, is in the ninth grade at Isabella; and Isaac, 12, is in the sixth grade.

“I’m going to get to be a daddy,” Graham said. “I can’t apologize for that. I’ve invested so much in other kids’ lives; now it’s time to invest in mine.”

Graham’s last season as IHS volleyball coach will be remembered as one of his most rewarding.

Several important members of the 2010 squad were lost to graduation, but Graham knew this year’s group had potential.

“I think you have to coach them a little different,” he said about handling a team that started the season short on experience and confidence. “You have to have some patience as things come together.

The Mustangs won 30 matches, the Chilton County Tournament championship, their 14th consecutive area title, the region title and advanced the Elite 8 state tournament for the third consecutive season.

“Our girls really worked together. They started believing in themselves. We never lost sight of what we were trying to accomplish. They have a lot to be proud of.”

Now the challenge is for the program to continue living up to the standards established by Graham, all the way back to the school’s first team, in 1998.

“The program is in place,” he said. “It can be successful for a long, long time. We have built something that our community can be proud of.”