EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article on Deb Palmer appeared in The Post-Journal on Nov. 17, 2016.
Deb Palmer, the retired coach and teacher at Panama Central School, hasn't been home much recently.
There was the trip to Hawaii a couple weeks ago. And then there was the drive to the University of Pittsburgh last weekend to watch a women's volleyball match between the Panthers and Duke, which is coached by Jolene Nagel, one of Palmer's former players.
"I'm sick of traveling, actually," the Blockville resident said with a laugh Wednesday afternoon.
But, come Friday, Palmer will hop back in her car and take off across the state for Glens Falls, the site of this weekend's New York State Public High School Athletic Association volleyball championships.
Despite the 375-mile trip, there's no other place she'd rather be.
"(Panama) has always had a solid program," Palmer said, "but we haven't won the big match and this team has a chance to do that. As a community, it's amazing, because it's a rural community that is not financially well-off, but people are just coming out of the woodwork."
Palmer would never say it, but the person responsible for laying the foundation for the success of volleyball at PCS is the one she sees when she looks in the mirror.
"Obviously, the influence she's had on me is just overwhelming," said current Panama coach Tammy Hosier, who graduated from Panama in 1982. "She is the reason that I'm into (physical education) teaching and coaching, and she's been my mentor and now a really good friend for years."
Hosier picked the right person to shadow.
Consider this: Palmer started coaching volleyball at the school in 1977 and stepped down in 2012. In those 35 years, she compiled a 388-248 record (a .610 winning percentage), and won 13 Division III championships, two Section VI Class D titles and one Class D regional crown in 1988.
Palmer's 1988 team defeated Houghton Academy in that regional match, a grueling, five-setter that lasted 2.5 hours. Unfortunately, that was as far as the Lady Panthers could go, because there was not a state tournament in those days.
By Saturday morning, though, the Lady Panthers will be blazing another athletic trail, continuing a remarkable run of success that has included back-to-back trips to the NYSPHSAA Class D basketball final four in 2015 and 2016.
"It's been a really good situation," Palmer said. " Tammy coached jayvee with me for several years. She's old-school like I am. I always felt fundamentals are the key. If you do the simple things well, you're going to be successful.
"It's fun to see a really solid team play the game well," she continued. "Panama is not fancy, but they play the game well. For me, it's just a continuation of the program. It's nice to see that it remains strong. For them to go to the states is just awesome."
So when the Panama girls take the court at the Glens Falls Civic Center for their first match on Saturday morning, Palmer will be in the stands rooting for a program that has been part of her DNA for more than half her life.
"I'm really excited for this team," she said. "They're a really well-balanced team, and I think when you look at them, they do the key things. They cover the court well, handle the first pass and they serve well. If you can handle the serve and control the first pass, you have a chance to run your offense, and these kids do a nice job of that.
"This is a good, quality group of kids. There are several of them who play travel, they've got the volleyball bug. With a couple of them, volleyball is their first love. I'm really hoping they can pull it off."
Hosier noted that she had Palmer speak to the team prior to the sectional finals and "you could just see them, just the focus and the attention on her. They were soaking in every word."
Deb Palmer was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
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