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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Debbie Taylor steps down after 34 years on the hilltop with Hilltopper Athletics

Courtesy of Hilltopper Athletics
On Feb. 3, Debbie Taylor (right) helped introduce the J.J. Riehl (left) endowment, a $25,000 anonymous donation made toward the women’s basketball program. Taylor has been a part of Hilltoppers Athletics since 1990 and has helped several programs expand and her work is one of the things that made this donations possible.

A chapter of Debbie Taylor’s life on the hilltop comes to an end this spring as she steps down from her position as Associate Vice-President of Athletics. Taylor served the athletics department for 34 years. She began her time at St. Edward’s as volleyball Head Coach after playing collegiate volleyball herself at Southwestern University. At St. Edward’s, she built an accomplished career while simultaneously reshaping and rebuilding Hilltopper Athletics. 

“It is very bittersweet,” Taylor said. “This is home for me, but I think it’s just time. I’ve been here 34 years and I know the St. Edward’s way, but it’s always nice to have other experiences to bring to catapult the department even farther forward.”

For Taylor, the love for sports came from a very young age. While growing up around New Braunfels, Taylor took advantage of every sports opportunity that came her way. She played sports with her family, followed her father and sister’s footsteps by starting to play basketball, and eventually paved her own way through volleyball. 

“It started when I was a really young kid,” Taylor said. “Of course back then there wasn’t a lot of athletics for girls, so I just stayed active, played things with my brothers and cousins, but I just always enjoyed sports. I just really enjoyed the ability to teach and help other people be successful.” 

Taylor began her collegiate sports career playing volleyball for Southwestern University in Georgetown. There, she became an All-American player with several appearances in national tournaments. She played under the AIAW, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, because the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the NCAA didn’t offer women’s sports at the time. Since both the league and the program were relatively new, Southwestern played against Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin. 

“Everybody just played everybody because it was fairly new for everyone,” Taylor said. 

After graduating in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in Education, Taylor was inducted into the Southwestern Hall of Honor in 1990 — the same year she was hired at St Edward’s — and was inducted to their Hall of Fame in 2008. 

“I had a lot of success as an athlete — I just had a very great coach, a very good mentor,” Taylor said. “I valued the lessons I learned from her, just life lessons I learned by being part of a team and learning from someone that was coaching for the right reasons, and I just fell in love with that and wanted to do my part in helping other people.”

As an athlete, Taylor had the privilege of working with people that actually wanted to see her succeed. She attributes her success as a player, and later on as a coach and an administrator, to the people along the way who motivated her to pursue a career in sports. 

“I had great mentors,” Taylor said. “John Knorr was the Athletic Director when I was hired, and he was my mentor when I was coaching, he mentored me through getting into administration.”

Taylor began coaching volleyball on the hilltop in the 90s. At the time, coaching positions were only part time jobs, so she also assumed a position as intramural director. After finishing her Master’s in Physical Education and Educational Administration at Southwest Texas State University in 1992, she began teaching in the kinesiology department at St. Edward’s and stepped down as intramural director while maintaining her position as volleyball Head Coach.

“Through my coaching career, I just took on different leadership roles,” Taylor said. “Whether it was chairing the conference coaches, getting involved in the American Volleyball Coaches Association, and working my way up the officers, so I was just getting more administrative experience.”

Taylor was Head Coach for 12 seasons, gathering the most career wins and the highest winning percentage in the history of the volleyball program at St. Edward’s before stepping down in 2002. She holds that record to this day. During her time as Head Coach, the volleyball team made it to the Heart of Texas Conference Championship three times. The team also had four NAIA National Tournament appearances and one Heartland Conference Championship appearance under her leadership. Still, Taylor credits her success to the players she had the privilege to work with and the connections she made with them. 

“I think that what made me successful were the student athletes I recruited,” Taylor said. “I was very fortunate in my ability to recruit and find students that would thrive in the St Edward’s environment and in the education that we taught. Just really good fortune.” 

Taylor was named Athletic Director in 2002 after volleyball joined the NCAA Division II. In that position, Taylor helped the university’s transition of conferences and continued to oversee major changes and expansions from then on. 

“I was doing two full time jobs: coaching volleyball and being an administrator,” Taylor said. “So, when the Athletic Director position opened, I felt like it was my opportunity to do one thing really well instead of two things pretty well.” 

Taylor faced several challenges while coaching and administrating on the hilltop, including the establishment of a steady infrastructure in which athletic programs could expand and be supported by the university. Taylor once again acknowledges that the immense success she was gifted in her administrative role comes from the relationships that she fostered through the years, which lend themselves to her long-term dedication to the same institution and growth within the positions available. She emphasizes doing these jobs for the right reasons: the betterment of the university and the success of its student athletes. As her final administrative position, she was named Associate Vice President for Athletics in 2017. By perfecting every position, Taylor hopes that whoever takes on this role after her continues to do the same.

“The collaborative nature that St. Edward’s has, the culture that we have, are very unique and we are very fortunate to have that,” Taylor said. “It’s the relationships, whether it is with my colleagues, coaches I’ve worked with, colleagues outside of St. Edward’s and the relationship with the student athletes and what we do to try to help them be successful not only while they’re here but once they leave … That’s really what has driven me and what I would hope to be my legacy, that we provided opportunity and a great experience, preparing students for life after the hilltop.”

Although her years at the hilltop are coming to an end, for Taylor, working at the university has been more than just a job. It has allowed her to find her calling and build a supportive community that assisted her growth within the institution and helped better the athletic program and the university as a whole. 

“I don’t think I can put in words what this place means to me, but if I had to choose one it would be family,” Taylor said. “It’s just a very special place and there are special people here. I’m not gonna be a stranger, I’ll come back and watch and support.”

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About the Contributor
Anna Pratts
Anna Pratts, Sports Editor
Anna Pratts is a sophomore from Brazil and majoring in Writing and Rhetoric with a concentration in journalism and digital media and minoring in Global Studies. This is her second year writing for Hilltop Views and her first semester as Sports Editor. She loves writing about sports, especially soccer and basketball, but she is looking forward to exploring other areas and growing as a writer.

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