The plan post-college graduation was to the Florida panhandle, teach elementary school kids and enjoy the beaches of the Gulf coast.

However, Debbie Fay’s life detoured – in a good way. In the summer of 1983, Park Hill High School called seeking a volleyball coach but couldn’t offer a teaching job. Fortunately for her, one opened up just before the semester.

Fay went on to coach high school volleyball in Missouri for 31 seasons (1983-2013), earning a 789-211-48 record (.753 win percentage). And her overall work is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Fay with the Class of 2020.

She coached 15 seasons at Park Hill High School in Kansas City and then 16 more at Park Hill South High School.

At Park Hill, she guided teams to 14 Class 4 state tournament appearances. Three won state championships (1988, 1989, 1997), and the 1987 team placed third. At Park Hill South, she had Four Final Four teams (runner-up in 2003 and 2013, fourth in 2005, third in 2006).

Fay found her calling while playing volleyball at Northwest Missouri State University.

“I’m just a big kid at heart, and I enjoy working with young people,” Fay said. “At the time (in college), I thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind doing this for the rest of my life.’ I just hit it off with the kids.”

Before graduating from Oak Park High School in 1979, she joined the team as a sophomore and was the last player to survive cuts. And then she helped the program earn two state tournament berths (1976, 1978).

In her years as a coach, a disciplinary structure paid off.

“(Park Hill) had not been a winning program (before 1983), and Oak Park was the team to beat,” Fay said. “I tried to run the high school program like a college program and got put in my place a couple of times. But I was driven. I was raised in a military family, so I knew what it took to be successful. The kids learned to work hard, and I think they enjoyed it at least sometimes.”

The 1987 season became the breakthrough, as Park Hill advanced to the Final Four for the first time since the program began in the 1970s.

In 1988, Park Hill won state while Fay was nine months pregnant with her first daughter.

The May twins, Jill Bailey and the Shamet sisters were keys on that team. Melanie Shamet is the mother of Landry, who plays for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. Bailey played at the University of Kansas. Janell Shamet later became a Fay assistant and then Park Hill South’s head coach.

“We had gotten close the year before and finished third. We just had some gutsy kids,” Fay said. “Jill Bailey is the fire that lives in all of us. She is the most competitive kid I have ever coached.”

The 1989 found momentum following a notable timeout in the sectionals – Park Hill was two points away from elimination – and surged the rest of the way.

Four other teams were state runners-up (1990, 1992, 1995, 1996).

“(The conditioning) turned out a wonderful product,” Fay said. “We didn’t just consistently play like they do now. Back then, club volleyball was not like it is today. Going to the state tournament was the best experience you could have.”

The 1997 team was led by Laurel Witt, Courtney DeArmond and Stacy Woodson.

“These three, along with freshmen Chrissy Elder (now coach at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs) could not have been better role models for my young daughters,” Fay said.

Fay took over the new Park Hill South High School program in the fall of 1998. She coached her daughters, Abby and Brooke, who played at Kansas State and Pittsburg State, respectively.

“Participating in the state tournament (2003-2005) as a parent and a coach will always be a lifetime memory,” Fay said.

Fay credits many for her success, including Park Hill football coach Greg Jones. He saw to it that volleyball players were welcomed and appreciated in the weight room. Assistant coach Karen McConnell (2000-2013) played an important role at Park Hill South.

Fay was adopted in Germany by a U.S. military family, Kenneth and Laverne Cone and calls them her “most favorite heroes.” These days, she is coaching at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kansas.

“I don’t know what else I would do,” Fay said. “God’s given us gifts, and I have a lot of energy.”