Thompson Warriors head volleyball coach Judy Green has built a winning culture—and notched her 1,000th win—during her almost 40-year coaching career.
Story by Barry Wise Smith
You would never know from talking to Coach Judy Green, Thompson High School’s head volleyball coach and director of volleyball operations, that she is an honest-to-goodness legend. Soft-spoken and humble, Green graciously credits her players, fellow coaches, and teachers without taking the glory for herself. But make no mistake, Green IS a coaching legend.
Green grew up in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, where she was a three-year high school letterwinner in basketball, softball, track, and volleyball. When it came time to choose a college, Green picked Western Carolina University (WCU), which was close to home. She was a three-sport D1 athlete, playing volleyball, basketball, and softball, earning 12 varsity letters in four years—making her the only athlete, male or female, in WCU history to earn 12 letters. Among her plethora of accolades, Green was named the school’s Female Athlete of the Decade for the 1980s.
After getting her undergraduate degree in education, Green stayed at WCU to get her master’s in education, with an emphasis in physical education while assistant coaching women’s basketball and head coaching cross country and women’s tennis. “My goal was to be in college coaching,” Green says. “This was my path to reaching my goal.”
Then, in 1986, Green took over as head volleyball coach at the University of Montevallo from longtime coach Dr. Beverly Warren, who had built an NAIA powerhouse and a rich volleyball tradition, including four consecutive NAIA National Tournament appearances. “I had awfully big shoes to fill,” Green recalls. But the winning continued as Montevallo transitioned form NAIA to NCAA Division 2 with Green’s first team going 24-0 and ranked #1 in the nation.
“It was uncharted waters for us,” she recalls. “I inherited a great group of seniors. We entered the tournament ranked #1—it was a crazy fun ride!”
For a decade, Green continued Montevallo’s volleyball dominance. “Montevallo was a unique situation,” she says. “I had 12 full scholarships for volleyball. I had support and funding and worked with the best people I’ve ever known. Montevallo was a unique and special place. They helped mentor me as a young coach and helped me to grow.”
But in 1996, Green had the opportunity to jump to the D1 level at the University of Alabama. “My father was an Alabama fan, and I grew up and Alabama fan,” she says. “I applied for the job, really not thinking I’d be leaving Montevallo. When I got the job, it was so hard to leave Montevallo; it was a true family.”
When Green took the reins at Alabama, the volleyball program needed rebuilding from the ground up. “We started from scratch,” Green says. “In the first three years, it was about creating the culture we wanted and recruiting players. It took four years until we were competing.” And compete they did. Green’s first recruiting class posted a 22-8 record as seniors on the way to the program’s first-ever SEC Western Division title in 2000. They won a second SEC West title in 2004 and made three consecutive NCAA Championship appearances in 2005, 2006, and 2007. In the 2008, season Green collected her 600th career victory ranking her 16th among active coaches for all-time wins. Green stayed at Alabama for 15 years until 2010 and then coached at Birmingham-Southern College for three seasons.
Then one of Green’s former Montevallo players, Carla Ragland, who was a physical education teacher at Thompson High School, approached Green about coming to coach at the school. “Carla called me and asked if I would ever consider coaching in high school,” Green says. “She said, ‘Our volleyball job is open, and I want you to come here.’” Green met with then-principal Chris Tangle. But it was her meeting with Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers that sealed the deal. “That was the end of the story,” Green says. “His vision for this system and his passion made it an easy decision to say yes.” Today Green is Director of Volleyball operations and the program’s head coach. While she doesn’t teach in the classroom any longer, she teaches her players plenty of important life lessons that apply on and off the court. “I’m so grateful to Carla,” Green says. “It was a true full circle; I recruited her then she recruited me.”
And Green isn’t slowing down anytime soon. She leads the Warrior Volleyball Academy, Alabaster’s youth volleyball program for kids from kindergarten to sixth grade, and her THS team won their area this past season and advanced to the state’s Elite 8 playoffs. Oh, and Green notched her 1,000th career win. “I’ll do this until I can’t stand up,” Green says. “As long as I’m able to make a difference in young people’s lives, I’ll keep coaching. It is my calling. I’m still in love with the sport. I’m blessed and grateful.”
From Left to Right
#12 Alex Stewart, junior
#5 Savannah Young, senior
#24 Alexa Fulcher, senior
Coach Judy Green
#2 Maddie Baxley, junior
#1 Sara Grace Smith, senior
#11 Ella Southern, senior