MONTGOMERY – Wanda Gilliland, the first female to become an assistant director with the Alabama High School Athletic Association, announced Wednesday her plans to retire effective June 1, 2017. She made the announcement at the AHSAA Central Board of Control’s October meeting held at the AHSAA office.
“It has been an honor and privilege to work with Wanda Gilliland,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said. “She is the consummate professional and a dedicated educator. Wanda was the first woman hired as a member of the AHSAA Executive Staff.
“She worked first with former Executive Director Dan Washburn. She has worked vigorously on behalf of the AHSAA since 1996 to elevate athletic opportunities for all students, particularly the female student-athletes. We wish her well in her retirement. We will be forever grateful for her service to this organization and to the student-athletes in this state.”
Gilliland, who spent 16 years as a teacher and coach at Hamilton High School before joining the AHSAA in 1996 when Dan Washburn was serving as executive director, will conclude 20 years with the AHSAA next June.
“I have been blessed to have had two jobs in my life that I have loved, and I also have had two families that I also love,” said Gilliland. “The AHSAA has been my second family for the past 20 years, and I will miss them all so much. Working at the AHSAA has been such a rewarding experience. It is a great organization. I have been fortunate to work for two outstanding executive directors, first Mr. Washburn and currently Mr. Savarese. Both men are incredible leaders who gave me a chance to make a difference.”
Gilliland has served in many leadership roles in the AHSAA and nationally with the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS). She currently is serving as the chairperson of the NFHS Softball Rules Committee. The NFHS honored her in 2015 in New Orleans at its 96th annual Summer Meeting with the prestigious NFHS Citation Award. The award honors individuals who have made contributions to the NFHS, state high school associations, athletic director and coaching professions, the officiating avocation and fine arts/performing arts programs. It is one of the most highly regarded achievements in high school athletics and performing arts.
A graduate of Marion County High School and Athens State College, she served as a teacher and coach/athletic director at Hamilton High School from 1979-1996 where her girls’ basketball teams compiled a 301-96 record, won a state championship in 1990, finished runner-up the next year and won the Marion County tournament seven times.
She has played a vital role in the development of state championship programs in volleyball, softball, basketball and cross country. She has helped govern eligibility requirements through involvement with school audits, investigations and foreign exchange student regulations. Also, she has played a key role in developing state championship venues at neutral sites for all championships.
“My reward comes when I see the smiles on the faces of the players who have an opportunity to compete in a regional or championship event,” she said. “The experiences and memories for them will last a lifetime.”
Gilliland has received several coach-of-the-year honors and has served on the NFHS basketball, softball and spirit rules’ committees. She currently chairs the NFHS Softball Rules Committee. She was inducted into AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Marion County Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.