Ainsworth to Transition into Gilliland’s Role In the Coming Months with the AHSAA

     MONTGOMERY – Alabama High School Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Savarese announced Monday that current Assistant Director Denise Ainsworth will be shifting her role with the AHSAA. She will be moving into the position that is being vacated with the retirement of Assistant Director Wanda Gilliland. Gilliland announced in October her plans of retiring effective June 1, 2017.
    Mr. Savarese said the two would continue to work closely together during the transition period.
    “We are very fortunate to already have Mrs. Ainsworth on the staff,” Savarese said. “Wanda’s role has been a very important one for the AHSAA, and Denise is highly qualified, understands the AHSAA mission and has been an integral part of what we do. We think this will make the transition much smoother.”
     She joined the full-time staff in July 2012 after working on a part-time basis beginning in 2010 with the AHSAA’s coaching component, the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA).  Ainsworth currently serves as the Director of Special Programs. She also works with championship sports. She currently serves as the chairperson for the National Federation of State Association (NFHS) Volleyball Rules Committee and is the state coordinator for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).
      “I am humbled by the AHSAA Central Board and by Mr. Savarese’s confidence in me and in my transitioning to a new position within the AHSAA,” Ainsworth said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my seven years as part of this great organization.
     “Mr. Savarese has challenged me to think outside the box and to set goals to make each and every project or event bigger and better than it was the year before. I am very proud of the work and results our group of colleagues have made during my tenure with the AHSAA and am thankful for the opportunities afforded me during my time as Director of Special Programs. I hope to bring that same attitude and growth to this new position.”
    As Director of Special Programs, Ainsworth has overseen a variety of projects and events including the implementation of bowling as a championship sport. She administers the AHSAA and AHSADCA professional development programs such as the Leadership Training Program for coaches and administrators and the Coaches Mini-Clinic Series. She worked closely with the ALSDE to establish CEU’s for that professional development.
      She is especially proud of the Student Leadership Council established during her tenure that has grown from 14 students to 46 statewide.
       Ainsworth also coordinates AHSAA championship events in several sports as well as a number of conferences and events, including the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet.
    “While I know this new position will be challenging and a learning curve, I feel confident that with the help of my co-workers and hard work and commitment on my part that we can continue and expand the work Ms. Gilliland began 20 years ago,” Ainsworth said. “Wanda’s efforts over the past 20 years have promoted better venues and better experiences for all of our student-athletes.
    “I am thankful to Wanda and others like her, who have paved the way for women as myself to be a part of the AHSAA. The term “professional” or “athlete” has no gender attached to it. However, both terms do imply hard work, commitment to excellence and integrity. I am excited to continue that work and I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that will come with this new promotion. “ 

    Prior to becoming a full-time staff member, Ainsworth was a highly successful coach, teacher and athletic administrator at Alabama Christian Academy (ACA) in Montgomery for 26 years. She served as athletic director at ACA for 12 years, during which the school’s athletic teams enjoyed tremendous success. While at ACA, she served in several AHSADCA officer positions and became the organization’s first female president in 2009.
     She was inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012, and her former school Alabama Christian named the school’s softball field in her honor that same year.
     A native of Florence, Ainsworth earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1981 from the University of North Alabama and a masters from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1983.

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