Ron Fowler is ready to begin his second act at Jackson County after his first was among the best in the volleyball program’s history.
After guiding the Panthers to an Elite Eight appearance in 2017, the coach is back, following a two-year stint at Colquitt County, to head up Jackson County’s volleyball program once again.
Fowler said the “community and the culture” at Jackson County factored heavily in his and his wife, Sarah’s, return. Sarah is his assistant coach.
“The last time that my wife and I were there, we loved every aspect of it, from the school, the athletic program overall and the girls we coached,” he said. “It really was an amazing place that gave my wife and I our first opportunity to coach volleyball together.”
Jackson County athletic director Brad Hayes said he’s happy to have them back.
“I not only remember what they did for our program before, but just who they are as people,” Hayes said. “It really became kind of a no-brainer once we went through the interview process.”
Fowler takes over for Jeff White, who accepted the head-coaching position at Pope after two seasons at Jackson County.
Fowler achieved considerable success in a short amount of time in his first stint with the Panthers. He earned 54 wins in two seasons with a Sweet 16 appearance in 2016 and a quarterfinals showing in 2017. The 2017 season included 33 wins and an area championship.
At Colquitt County, Fowler took over a program with just one victory in its brief history and got the program to 10 wins this past fall. He said coaching a fledgling program — one that didn’t have the benefit of club players — was a valuable experience.
“I think it honestly helped us learn and appreciate the fundamentals more than we ever have,” Fowler said, adding that most of the two years was spent instilling those fundamentals to a host of players new to the sport.
While Fowler was away, Jackson County’s program continued its upward swing. Under White, the Panthers reached the Elite Eight again in 2018 and advanced to the Final Four in 2019 for the first time in school history. Jackson County posted a school-record 38 victories this past fall.
“We were very excited to see what Jeff White was able to carry on, and continue to take that program to a high level of success,” Fowler said.
Fowler said that success has changed the mentality of the program and the perception of it.
“In my opinion, it’s now becoming one of the most prestigious volleyball programs in the state of Georgia,” Fowler said.
Moving forward under Fowler, Jackson County will lose six seniors off last year’s semifinals team but will welcome young talent rising through the ranks.
And Fowler has the immediate benefit of familiarity with those players.
The middle school program, which he and his wife started, was closely aligned with the high school during Fowler’s first run at Jackson County. It practiced each day with the varsity and junior varsity squads. Now, those middle schoolers will move up to the high school program to play under Fowler. Approximately 16-17 players in the high school program for the upcoming season came through Fowler’s middle school program.
“It will be very exciting for us to see how they’ve progressed over the past couple of years,” Fowler said.
He also called those previous ties “very beneficial for us.”
“We know those girls,” he said. “They know us. They know our system.”
Fowler returns to Jackson County just as it moves up to Class AAAAA. The Panthers will play in Region 8-AAAAA, which he said that stands to be a “very, very tough region.”
But there’s excitement in returning to what they started. Fowler said he and his wife (the couple has a newborn baby) are happy to be home.
“We are really excited,” Fowler said. “We are glad to be coming home. Jackson County really was a home to us, and we look forward to getting there and establishing our roots … We’re just excited to get there and be a part of the community.”