By Bailey Pennycuff / Co-Sports Editor
Delice Downing has found a new program to call home.
Downing spent 16 years at Coffeyville building a national power after her playing career came to an end. Over the summer former volleyball coach Patrick Hall retired and Downing was enticed with Hutchinson Community College.
“I’ve always heard nothing but good things about Hutch,” Downing said. “(Athletic Director Josh) Gooch was actually a coach at Coffeyville while I was there, so he kind of knew me. It worked out well because when this job opened up, he gave me a call and it was just one of those things where I just fell in love.”
Downing was born and raised in Atchinson and attended Coffeyville Community College, where she played volleyball, basketball and softball, all while maintaining a 3.4 GPA.
After her two years at Coffeyville, she went on to play volleyball at the University of West Alabama.
Downing was an influential player on any team she was on and often played in every rotation on the volleyball court.
“As a player in college, I played mostly right side. But I also set and played some outside too,” Downing said.
Her freshman year at Coffeyville, she earned the honors of first-team All-Region 6, first-team Jayhawk All-Conference as well as the conference’s Freshman Player of the Year. Also during her freshman year, she earned Jayhawk All-Conference Honorable Mention for softball.
Her sophomore year, she went on to be named the MVP of the conference, as well as first-team honors for both All-Conference and All-Region 6.
Once her playing days were over, she went on to coach high school volleyball for two years. After those two years, she returned to Coffeyville to be the head coach of their volleyball program for 16 years.
While at Coffeyville, she led her team to the NJCAA Division 2 national championships in 2017 and 2018. In 2015 she was named the KJCCC Coach of the Year. In 2017 she received NJCAA Coach of the Tournament. Lastly, in 2018, she was awarded NJCAA Division 2 Volleyball Championship Coach of the Year, as well as the Tachikara NJCAA Division 2 Coach of the Year.
Just as everything else in the world is being affected by the pandemic, this year’s volleyball season will be as well. However, Downing has decided to look at the positives about the season being pushed to spring.
“We are using this time to train and really get to know each other. I’m the type of coach who loves to have fun, so we plan on challenging other teams to different games and having a lot of fun,” Downing said.
Downing also plans to spend a lot of quality time with the team.
“We are going to have s’more nights, and a bunch of group activities and team bonding time. It will really bring everyone together and make a strong commitment to the team,” Downing said.
With preseason beginning in January, Downing is having her team’s grind begin now.
“We plan to be one of the top teams in the conference this season, and we’re feeling really great. (Assistant coach Tori) Provencio has been amazing helping me and getting everyone ready,” Downing said.
The team has connected with Downing and her coaching methods.
“It’s still pretty early days but the whole team has shown major improvements under her coaching,” sophomore volleyball player Jenna Thorne said. “I think she’s lovely off the court and she definitely knows when to switch from friend to coach.”
Downing and the rest of the team have their priorities set, as well as different goals.
“No. 1 goal is to become a family. Next is to have a 3% increase every day. If we take it one set, one point, one match at a time, the score will be on our side,” Downing said. “Another goal is to go undefeated at home. We should get a lot of hometown support so I think we can do it.”
Outside of volleyball, Downing loves to surround herself with family.
“I have the best family ever. Two lovely kids who are very active and athletic; they love sports,” Downing said. “I love getting to go watch Aah’lice play sixth grade volleyball as a fourth grader and also getting to watch Adrian play football. Thank God my fiance (Adrian Jackson) loves sports too.”
Just like in volleyball, Downing has made sure her family has their priorities and beliefs set.
“God is the head of our house, and my family is my biggest thing. Volleyball and family intertwine in my life,” Downing said.
In July 2015, Downing tragically had to face the death of her youngest child.
“What drives me is my son, Dash. He passed away when he was eight weeks old from SIDS. He drives me because I know I cannot let my other two babies down. I have two on earth, and one is blessing me from heaven,” Downing said.
Downing’s players know how the tragedy impacts her life; they understand how it has made her as a person.
“The team knows we can go to her for anything. Depending on the situation, we may have to ‘feel her wrath’ but she makes sure to let us know that she’s always there for us,” Thorne said.
To be the woman Downing is today, it is an understatement to say strength is a necessity. She takes her pain and transforms it into a drive for life. She converts her agonizing heartbreak to provide a nurturing vibe for anyone she comes into contact with.
“There was a time when I didn’t think I could go on, I didn’t think I could get back up. Strength that God gave me is what saved me and my family,” Downing said. “I cling to God, he helps me to keep my babies from harm and to take care and raise them. Yes, I still cry, but it has affected me positively for the way I coach – I am nurturing. I will always be someone who my family can come to.”