Class of 2005
Former Tanner High School Principal Johnny Black describes Debbie Blakely as "a pioneer of women's sports in Limestone County.
Blakely also proved to be a pretty good coach, winning two state basketball championships at Tanner and numerous basketball, volleyball and softball tournament titles there and at West Limestone and Ardmore.
Blakely's groundbreaking efforts will be recognized when she becomes one of the eight newest inductees into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies May 14 at Athens State University.
Blakely, daughter of the late Carl McElyea and Margaret Bridges McElyea, grew up in the Coxey community, graduating from Clements High School in 1968. During her senior year there, she played in the first sanctioned volleyball tournament held by the Alabama High School Athletic Association and was named to the All-State team.
After graduating from Calhoun Community College and Athens State University, Blakely was hired as a special education teacher at Tanner High School and started a girls basketball program there. In 1982, her team won the 2A state championship and Blakely was named AHSAA Coach of the Year.
Four years later, the Lady Rattlers won a state 3A title, marking the first time boys and girls teams from the same school won titles in the same year. Blakely again was named Coach of the Year.
Blakely moved on to West Limestone in 1991, where her volleyball team won three straight titles. She transferred to Ardmore in 1993, where she continued to coach champion volleyball and basketball teams.
Retiring from teaching after 26 years in the spring of 2000, Blakely was hired as unit director at the Athens Boys & Girls Club. In 2003, she was promoted to the post of director of Operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Limestone County, a title she holds today.
"Coach Blakely proved herselfa wonderful coach, as well as mentor to the players whom she coached," Friend Suzanne Rainey said in nominating her. "Her players have found her to be a friend, advisor and motivator."