Ever since Paula Ham was in the 7th grade she had no doubt what profession she wanted to do; become a teacher and coach. In 1979 she made that dream come true when she had her first teaching job in Buena Vista Imperial as a K-12 Physical Education teacher. And ironically after being a successful volleyball player in both high school and college she was also named as the head volleyball coach.
Coach Ham grew up in neighboring Plains where she was an outstanding player for the Cowgirls making her very familiar with Denver City and their successful volleyball program. Following her graduation from high school in1975, she earned a scholarship to continue her volleyball career at Howard Payne in Brownwood. After one season the university decided to do away with the volleyball program, so she transferred to Angelo State where she continued her volleyball career and earned a college degree in education graduating following the spring semester in 1979. That led to her first job at Buena Vista for the school year 1979-80
In 1980 the head volleyball position came open in Denver City and Coach Ham couldn’t get back to her roots quick enough. “Everything seemed to fall right in place at the right time,” Coach Ham said. “It gave me an opportunity get back close to home where I could help take care of my parents. It was just meant to be.” Superintendent Virgil Kelley hired Coach Ham to become the head volleyball coach and assistant track coach. She was also the high school girls PE teacher, a position she held until 1984.
In the 1984-1985 school year Coach Ham stepped aside as the volleyball coach to accept the 4th through 6th grade girls PE teacher at the Intermediate school after Katherine Spivey retired. But her time away from coaching volleyball was short lived when she once again entered the arena as the assistant coach for her good friend Megan David in 1988. Working with Coach David, the program they nurtured throughout the years continued to grow and was one of the legendary volleyball programs other West Texas teams tried to model their own program after.
It was in 1982 when Coach Ham had a name change going from Coach Blount to Coach Ham when she married Perry Ham. Perry, a DCHS graduate, entered Paula’s life and became very supportive of her coaching career. “After we married Perry and I became very close friends with the David family”, Coach Ham said. “Now they just live two houses away from us. Since we never had any children of our own we unofficially adopted the four David kids. I got to watch Leah, Bree, and Karley compete on both the volleyball and basketball courts. And when you throw in Clancy in football and basketball those were some fun and exciting times.”
Not only has Coach Ham been coaching the game, she has also been officiating since 1975 and has over 40 years’ experience. Her officiating times were limited during her teaching days, but now that she is retired she is expecting her officiating will pick up tremendously. She will have plenty of games to choose from as she is a member of two officiating chapters, the South Plains, and Permian Basin chapters.
“Now that I have retired from teaching I’ll probably be officiating four nights each week. And during the early part of the season when everyone is hosting a tournament I’ll be officiating five nights,” she said. “Just being an official in any sport will sometimes get the crowd fired up. I try to be fair to everyone I call for, even when I call Denver City games. I know I have missed some calls, but it wasn’t intentional.”
So, what will Coach Ham miss most of all in her retirement? “I’ll really miss the kids. You can get so attached to some of them,” she added. “Some days they may spend more time with their teachers than they do at home. I try to always love on them and give them attention. And I’ll miss my teaching buddies and the administration. I’ve worked for some great principals.”
One of the activities Coach Ham was known for was teaching her students how to square dance. “I need to give Doug Henry credit for that. When he was the music teacher here he came up with the idea of teaching square dancing,” Coach Ham added. “Some of the kids didn’t want to do it the first couple of days, but after we get into it they all loved it. I’ll certainly miss those square-dancing sessions.”
Most morning you can see Coach Ham running in the Santa Fe Addition. She has a very intense workout schedule. On Mondays, she runs 6 miles, Wednesdays 3.5 miles, Fridays 4 miles, and Tuesday and Thursday she will do four miles on the walking trail. Plus, on those same two days, she also does some weights.
“I am very passionate about physical education,” Coach Ham continued. “I never wanted to be that coach that just sat in a chair and rolled a ball on the court and told the kids to go play. Recently I had a mom come up to me at the post office and tell me how much she appreciated all I had done for her child. It’s those things I will really miss. I know I’ll stay busy, I can’t just sit around the house all day;”
Coach Ham will be missed by a lot of people, but especially by those young ones who depended on her and her love each day. But her legacy will carry on for many years to come.