Spain Park hires Fort Payne’s Justin Kisor as varsity volleyball coach

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

HOOVER – After a months-long search, Spain Park High School has chosen the next leader for its varsity volleyball program.

Spain Park announced on Wednesday, April 10 that Justin Kisor will serve as the new varsity volleyball head coach in 2024.

“We are so excited about Coach Kisor joining SPHS,” Spain Park High School principal Amanda Esslinger said. “I am confident that he is the right person to lead our program. In addition to his coaching record and accolades, throughout the search process, he has asked and answered all of the right questions in all of the right ways.  He has great ideas, enthusiasm, knowledge, character, and drive to grow the volleyball program and build upon the success we have had at Spain Park.”

Kisor comes to the city of Hoover after a successful stint at the helm in Fort Payne. He coached the Wildcats for four seasons after being named the coach in 2020 and turned around the Wildcats from a 9-21 record in 2019 to back-to-back 30-win seasons in 2023 and 2024.

Most recently, Kisor guided Fort Payne to the Class 6A quarterfinals after finishing runner-up in the northern super regionals and claiming an area championship to end the year with a 38-17 record.

Before arriving at Fort Payne, he coached at Faith Christian for three seasons before taking the job at Pell City in January 2020. He left Pell City five months later before ever coaching a game after he accepted an offer from Fort Payne to become its head coach.

Kisor had no doubt he wanted to join Spain Park after the position opened to be a part of a successful program.

“Obviously it’s one of the best schools in in Alabama and a great volleyball program, great position,” Kisor said. “Kellye most recently has done a great job with it, and playing them and seeing the success they’ve had and playing at the highest level, obviously it was kind of a no brainer that we would like to get down there.”

Kisor said it was perfect timing to move his family down to Hoover, including his eight-month-old daughter.

“Being able to move when she’s young was huge for us, and so I felt like it was just like the Lord opened a lot of doors for that,” Kisor said.

Beyond any of his on-court success though, what excited Spain Park High School athletic director Josh Donaldson and the rest of the administration was family culture that he creates and cultivates in his teams.

“One of the things that we’re excited about is just how he values family and creates that family with all of his programs that he has,” Donaldson said. “That family nature that he’s going to bring to Spain Park as well as the success in the program, he’s going to continue to build that, so just looking forward to a great next venture for him and our program and can’t wait to see what next season brings.”

To Kisor, that looks like an environment of selfless love, honesty and celebrating each other’s achievements.

“We have our accomplishments, and we’re excited about those, but we want to be excited about everybody else’s too, whether that is academic, school-related, sport-related or whatever it is, I think that when it comes down to it, when you’re in a family, you’re just really get excited for everybody’s success and you’re always there for each other,” Kisor said. “And so, that’s kind of what I want to bring to Spain Park.”

Kisor replaces Kellye Bowen who left following the 2023 season to become the head coach at Jasper High School in her hometown.

In her 10 seasons with the Jags, Bowen led Spain Park to its first volleyball state championship in 2021 after finishing as the runner-up in 2020. She earned Super All-State Coach of the Year in 2021 as well.

Under her leadership, the Jags have won an area championship in each of the last four seasons to reach at least the Sweet 16 every season, including a run to the Elite Eight in 2023.

After such a successful run, Donaldson said it was important to find someone who could not only continue that success now but into the future as well by developing the youth.

“The success that Fort Payne had over the last couple of years, it just means a lot because it’s going to help our program continue in that positive growth,” Donaldson said. “Kellye did a great job of building our program up, but we want somebody who’s going to continue that growth and then also invest in the younger kids, invest in the kids at the middle school and invest in the kids at the elementary schools because that’s just the future of the program as a whole.”

Kisor views the situation similarly and wants to build off the growth that Bowen helped orchestrate.

“I’m not looking to change anything that Kellye’s done,” Kisor said. “I think she’s awesome and I have great respect for her, and the last thing I want to do is come in there and people think, ‘Oh, he’s coming here to replace her.’ No, I’m coming here to keep it going because I think that’s what she deserves.”

Kisor will be joined on the coaching staff by his wife Ashley who was his assistant coach at Fort Payne. According to Donaldson, her role is not finalized at this time.