Center Grove’s Burton earns Hall of Fame call

The speech Debby Burton will give the night of Feb. 7 has been nearly three decades in the making.

Burton, a longtime tennis coach in the Center Grove school district, becomes the 13th person from Johnson County to be inducted into the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

The ceremony is at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.

“I was surprised,” said Burton, who founded the Center Grove middle school tennis program in 1992 and became the Trojans girls varsity coach seven years later. “I help put on the Hall of Fame dinner every year, and I knew my name had been thrown around, but I didn’t think that it was happening this year.”

The Hall of Fame was founded in 1992, making this the 29th annual induction class. This year’s six inductees brings the Hall’s total membership to 137, with Burton becoming the eighth person from Center Grove to be honored.

Burton’s Hall-worthy credentials speak for themselves.

The Center Grove girls program is 295-123 under her watchful eye, with 15 Johnson County tournament championships, two Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference titles, 17 sectional crowns and 13 regionals.

Additionally, five Trojans squads won semistate under Burton, whose résumé also includes a pair of doubles state champions and two more duos that finished runner-up.

Burton has been named state coach of the year three times and district coach of the year on five occasions by the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association.

A 1983 graduate of Elkhart Memorial High School, Burton was the Chargers’ No. 1 singles player for three seasons. She graduated from Indiana University, but did not play tennis for the Hoosiers.

Burton teaches math at Center Grove Middle School Central and was named Center Grove Teacher of the Year in 2010. She found out about her latest honor in December shortly before the start of winter break.

“I was kind of shocked and very quiet about it. There are some very quality people in the Hall of Fame,” Burton said. “I got more emotional when I got home and started talking to my husband (Steve). When I applied for the math job here, I had never even heard of Center Grove.

“But I work for a great place and couldn’t have landed in a better spot. It was the right place at the right time, and it’s all worked out.”

Introducing Burton at the Hall of Fame ceremony will be longtime Center Grove boys tennis coach Ivan Smith, part of the Hall of Fame’s 1998 induction class. The county’s first inductee was John Shirley (1992), who grew up in Smith Valley and became the first tennis coach at North Central High School.

Every year, the Hall of Fame aspires to have as balanced a class as possible when it comes to selecting current or former players, coaches and contributors.

“I feel like of the female coaches today, (Burton) is one of the best in the state,” Smith said. “Debby has a passion for tennis. It’s just something that’s been ingrained in her and been part of her life.”