The long-time Hazel Green volleyball coach had piled up accolades that dwarf that of nearly every coach in the state — regardless of the sport.
During her time with the Lady Trojans, Wright racked up more than 1,300 career wins, including six state titles, was inducted into both the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame and Madison County Sports Hall of Fame, and even had the Hazel Green gymnasium named in her honor.
Anybody that knows volleyball in the state of Alabama knows Glenda Wright.
After stepping down after the 2007 season, Wright retired to the Smith Lake area, ready to leave coaching behind. However, that’s not quite the end of the story.
Turns out she wasn’t ready to step away from the sport she loved. When former Hazel Green High School graduate Jeremy Crigger came to Walker High School as the principal, he put in a call to Wright when the volleyball coaching position came open.
That was three years ago and Wright is still going strong as she attempts to turn the Vikings program into a state contender.
“I missed coaching,” said Wright, who is the state’s all-time leader with 1,359 career wins. “I just like the smell of the gym and being around the kids.”
Walker has improved during Wright’s first two seasons, winning 27 matches the first season and 29 in 2012.
“Some of our young players are coming on, but we still have some improvements to make,” added Wright, who is beginning her 45th season as a high school coach.
At Walker, Wright needed an assistant. That’s when she gave Karen Atkins a call.
“I called Karen and told her I needed some help with volleyball. She said OK,” Wright said. “I knew Karen was good, but I didn’t know how good until I worked with her last year. The woman is awesome. She’s a detail person. She can break things down. Like I tell her, somebody’s got to talk and somebody’s got to listen. I’ll let you guess who does what,” said Wright. “That’s why we get along so well.”
Wright and Atkins first met when Atkins was a high school player at Carbon Hill High School.
“We have a unique history. When I was a senior in high school, we were playing for the state championship in 1985,” Atkins said. “Hazel Green beat us and won state. That was the first time I met Glenda Wright. In 1998, when I was at Curry coaching volleyball, we played Hazel Green and they put us out to get to the regional tournament. Now we are here together.
“She doesn’t know how to do anything but win. I’ve never met anybody who has won as many games as she’s won as a coach. I tell everybody that I’m thrilled just to be around her. We have a good time and a great relationship.”
Wright, who started her coaching career in 1965 in Key West, Fla., is only at her fourth school in more than 40 years.
She went to Hazel Green in 1966 and spent eight years with the Trojans before returning home to care for her mother, who was involved in a car accident. Following two years at Charleston, Miss., Wright’s mother recovered and Wright returned to Hazel Green, where she stayed for another 31 years. She guided the Trojans to state titles in 1980, 1983-86 and 1994.
“As a coach, you want the best of the best — she’s it. When we go down to the AHSAA, she’s on the wall. I was like, ‘I rode with her!’” Atkins said. “I’m thrilled every day that we work together. We share the same passion. I don’t think the community or the kids were aware of who she is. You have the Bear Bryant of volleyball here and you don’t even know. We went up to Hazel Green last year and we played in Glenda Wright Gym. I mean the gym is named after her.”
Current Hazel Green coach Coco Hughes played for Wright in high school and was part of the Trojans state championship team as a freshman in 1994. She also served as Wright’s assistant coach from 2003-05. Hughes has been at Hazel Green the last four years as head coach.
“Some people play volleyball and turn into coaches. Coach Wright didn’t play volleyball. She was just made to coach. That just her thing,” said Hughes, who first became acquainted with Wright during her middle school days. “I remember coach Wright talking to a bunch of the girls. She told us we needed to go out for volleyball.”
A few years later, Hughes was one of the youngest girls practicing with the team.
“When I was in the 8th grade, we would practice with the varsity girls in the spring. Coach Wright used to be very, very strict. I can remember one time we had a tournament at Huntsville High School and I showed up two minutes late. She had me running in the gym and wouldn’t let me start. She came up to me and said, ‘Have I got your attention?’ I told her she had my attention from the start. As a player, you may not have liked her, but you love her now,” said Hughes, who added that her two-year old daughter also loves Wright. “There is just nobody like her.”
Wright’s ex-players stretch across the state, especially in North Alabama.
“My assistant coach played for coach Wright. We have a girl on the team now who is a Division I prospect and her mom played for coach Wright. We have two girls on the freshman team whose mothers played for coach Wright,” Hughes added.
“There is a life-size picture up in the gym of coach Wright holding a volleyball. It has a list of all the things she’s accomplished. One of my students asked, ‘Who is that lady?’ I said, ‘That’s my coach. Go up there and read and you’ll see why she’s on the wall.’”