David Bethea wanted to be a teacher. Little did he realize that his best classroom would turn out to be the tennis court!
Bethea is one of 12 individuals being inducted into the Class of 2017 of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The induction banquet will be March 20 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
The graduate of Huntsville’s Butler High School earned his college degree at the University of North Alabama and received his Masters from the University of South Alabama. Joining the faculty of Montgomery Academy in 1979, he has spent his entire teaching and coaching career at the private school where he has served as head coach of the boys’ tennis program and the junior high/middle school football program.
His junior high football coaching record (191-83-3) includes 19 city championships. He was also Montgomery Academy head basketball coach from 1986-90, compiling a record of 33-36.
It was tennis, however, that propelled Bethea to the forefront among AHSAA coaches. Adding tennis to his duties in 1983, his record remarkable ever since. Currently in his 35th season as the head coach, he has compiled an 878=175 dual match record through the 2016 season. That total included 14 state championships, nine runners-up and 32 Section Championships. He was also named the 2014 NFHS Sooth Section Tennis Coach of the Year.
As with so many coaches, however, it is not just impressive numbers that mark his success.
“Coach Bethea’s real impact has not been in winning in athletics, but in winning in the game of life,” wrote former Saint James head football coach Robert Johnson. “He is one of the best Christian leaders I have ever known. Always putting his faith before anything else, he has led many people to Christ through his amazing testimony and how he lives his life.”
Johnson, a long-time friend and former student of Bethea, added, “He is the most positive person I know. He is an amazing motivator and is always smiling and encouraging others. He is always concerned about others and how he can help them. He challenges people in their spiritual life, academics and athletics. Coach Bethea has personally impacted my life in tremendous ways. First, he was my junior high coach as a 7th grader. I was in awe of this man with long hair that loved Jesus.
“As an 8th grader he cut me from the football team. Looking back, it was a pivotal moment in my life. He encouraged me all year to work hard and come back out. He did not give up on me. His love and motivation changed my life, and I made the team as a 9th grader…. I went on to make All State and played on a state championship team as a senior because of his motivation. My last year in college, Coach Bethea asked me to be his assistant on the junior high team. This again was a pivotal moment in my life, changing my career. I ended up becoming a teacher and coach because of this man. I only hope that I have made a small portion of the impact on lives like David Bethea has.”
Jim Tuley, former coach at Robert E. Lee and Trinity Presbyterian, described Bethea as gentle with a calm compassion.
“His love for the students, parents, the game and the team he
“His love for the students, parents, the game and the team he is competing against is always there,” Tuley said. “He makes it fun to play his teams. As a person on the other sideline, it was always a pleasure to play the teams he coached. They were always ready to play to their best and, win or lose, they were always gentlemen. He has not only won on the field, but also is a great ambassador for high school sports
“When I served at Trinity (for 17 years), I saw David build a dynasty in boys’ tennis at MA. He gave young players a chance and gave the young men who stayed around a chance to play and contribute. He has the rare ability to make each person he coaches feel important.”