OAKWOOD -- The sport of volleyball is exploding in northeast Georgia and Hall County, and many of the girls now taking part in the sport have Joe Nelson to thank for that opportunity.
Nelson helped initiate the program at North Hall in 1999 and helped spread the sport throughout the area.
Yet on Monday Nelson, currently the volleyball coach at West Hall, announced he had already coached his final varsity season, saying he will retire at the close of the school year.
Nelson has had a distinguished 18-year career as a volleyball coach in both North Carolina and Georgia, accumulating 430 victories, which is second highest among active coaches in the state.
In Georgia, his teams have made six state tournament appearances, advancing to the "Sweet 16" round five times. In addition, his teams have been Area runners-up five times.
Nelson came to Georgia in 1995 to coach girls basketball at Habersham Central High School. When he inquired about also coaching volleyball, which he coached in North Carolina, he was told that Georgia did not offer volleyball in their high school sports.
"I was surprised that Georgia did not have volleyball because it had been very popular in North Carolina," Nelson remembered. "When I left Habersham Central to accept a position with Hall County at North Hall High in 1999, I worked with then-athletic director Jim Bracket to start a volleyball program."
It was also during that time that he and Piedmont volleyball coach Sid Feldman started the North Georgia Volleyball Camps at North Hall and Chestatee High Schools to help promote the growth of the sport.
Nelson's influence stretches throughout northeast Georgia. In fact, Nelson mentored and coached both Julie Rushing and Emilee Hughes, who are now high school coaches of their own at Chestatee and North Hall, respectively.