Jessica Phelan- the winning way


Cole Peterson

Head coach Mrs. Jessica Phelan is in her 16th year as the head coach of the Fayetteville High School Volleydogs, and her 20th coaching in general. Phelan is responsible for all four State titles in FHS Volleyball history. During her 16-year coaching career at FHS she has made 12 State bracket appearances, four second-place finishes and of course the four championships. Phelan is one of the most decorated coaches here at Fayetteville High School.

Phelan has been in the game of volleyball for most of her life. She played at Hermann High School, a smaller school in Missouri about an hour east of Jefferson City. You could say that Phelan had the winning spirit instilled in her while playing high school volleyball. Her coach, Linda Lampkin, who has won more state titles than any other volleyball coach in Missouri history. In her time at Hermann, she won two State Championships and was a two-time All-State player. In addition, she set the Class 2A State Tournament record for blocks and kills.

From high school, Phelan went on to play at the University of Arkansas where she won a multitude of awards and honors. She was part of three different NCAA tournament teams while at UARK. In her playing career, Phelan was very decorated. She is the first Razorback Volleyball All-American in school history, first Razorback Scholar-Athlete to earn the H. Boyd McWhorter Athlete of the Year and post-secondary scholarship, she has earned a first-team Academic All-American, she has been named the NCAA Woman of the Year for the State of Arkansas and in 1998 was named to the USA A2 team. Since she has been named to the Razorback Hall of Honor. Phelan is also an SEC Legend. Decorated doesn’t describe Phelan’s playing career well enough.

Phelan didn’t go to college to coach volleyball. She is an AP Psychology teacher at FHS and has been so for several years. She says her desire to start coaching came from a want to give back to the game and she enjoyed it more than she anticipated. In a system where talent graduates often, it is hard to win consistently like Phelan does. Yet there is something bigger than the rotation of talent. Tradition, which Phelan says never graduates is what keeps the winning expectation in Fayetteville.

Tradition never graduates. I think at some point the expectations of hard work, teamwork, and selflessness began to be communicated by upperclassmen to underclassmen and that is pretty cool,” Phelan said. “Tradition and expectations build on themselves and help us to maintain a positive momentum of success.”

Phelan says there are no magic secrets, that it takes what it takes to win. And it takes hard work day in, and day out. The hardest part of coaching for Phelan, and coaches everywhere, is playing time. She wants every player to feel that their role is important, which can be difficult with almost 70 players on the team.

“I want everyone to feel that their role is important and for every player to see their value to our program even if they are not ‘playing’ equal amounts in matches. Making those choices and communicating them is one of the hardest parts of coaching,” Phelan said.

Phelan has had an impressive tenure as a coach at FHS. She has added to her list of honors and awards as a coach. She has earned multiple Coach of the Year awards for Class 7A West, NWA Times Coach of the Year, All Arkansas Preps Coach of the Year and earned the State of Arkansas Coach of the Year Award.

Phelan’s want and desire to give back to the game has certainly paid off in a big way for her and FHS Volleyball. The Volleydogs are already on their way to another impressive season as they have started 6-2. Their next home game will be Sept. 26 against Har-Ber Springdale at 6:30 p.m.

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