MONTGOMERY – Hatton High School’s long-time volleyball and softball coach Rebecca Lee was a pioneer in girls’ high school athletics in Alabama. Her biggest contribution, her former players agree, was establishing expectations of excellence and commitment for the young ladies who participated.
Lee is one of 12 individuals in the Class of 2017 being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame banquet will be Monday, March 20, at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
A native of Moulton, Rebecca Lee graduated from Hatton High School in 1966 and Athens State College in 1978.
She began her teaching and coaching career at East Lawrence High School, where she started and coached the volleyball program for five seasons. Her 1980 team was the Class 2A runner-up and she coached two All State players and one state tournament MVP. Her overall record was 109-33 and included three county championships
In 1983 she returned to her alma mater, Hatton, to coach both volleyball and slow pitch softball. Her record in both sports was outstanding. Her volleyball teams captured four consecutive Class 2A state championships in from 1990-1993 and were runners-up in six other seasons. She saw 36 players earn All-State recognition with three being named state-tournament MVPs.
Her teams won 10 region, 19 area and 18 Lawrence County championships. Her career record at Hatton (1983-2002) was 771-258 and 880-291 overall. She received numerous state and local Coach-of-the-Year awards including the AHSAA Class 2A Coach of the Year in 2000 and the Moulton Advertiser Female Coach of the Decade in 1990.
Lee’s slow-pitch softball programs was just as successful. Hatton won three Class 2A state softball championships – 1992, 1993 and 1996 and were runners-up in 1990 and 1997. Seven players earned all-state recognition and three were named state tournament MVPs. Her teams compiled an overall 400-177 record with nine region, 10 area and six Lawrence County championships. She was named the NFHS Slow Pitch Coach of the Year in 2000.
Barbie Terry, director of Development at the University of North Alabama, credits her current position to skills she learned under Coach Lee:
‘My aunt played softball and volleyball for Mrs. Lee in the ‘80s. I was a kid. I vividly remember the smell of her husband Mike’s pipe as he watched his wife change women’s sports in Alabama. She was fierce, determined and passionate. She produced winners. She didn’t care that so many opposed women’s sports or though that a woman shouldn’t be coaching. I couldn’t wait to ‘grow-up’ and play high school ball for Mrs. Lee, and I did.
“It was hard. She held us accountable and made sure we always, on and off the court, carried ourselves with grace and dignity. You didn’t have to have all of the skills, you just had to have the work ethic. You had to have the drive. If it were easy, everyone would do it. We wore our uniforms with pride. We earned the right to be a Lady Hornet…
“People recognized us and they respected Coach Becky Lee. Not everyone agreed with her coaching style, partly because she was a woman in a man’s world and probably because she was hard on us. Looking back, I see that Mrs. Lee wasn’t just hard on us. She loved us and she loved us as her own. Every single day that Mrs. Lee spent with us she was teaching us to respect ourselves as women, to never apologize for working hard and being successful, to always work for your goals – and achieve them.
“I can honestly say that I hold my position in large part because of Mrs. Lee. The path to my current position wasn’t easy…. I was a small-town girl lost in the mix with 16,000 others students at Mississippi State University. I stood outside my first class and wanted to quit and go home, but that wasn’t an option… If it were, none of us would have made it past the first volleyball or softball practice of the year. “
She said her coach also taught the players to be humble in winning and defeat.
“Mrs. Lee taught us when he got beat to get back up and prove that you are the best. Time after time in my career, I have re-lived moments on the field or court and taken steps according to Mrs. Lee’s lessons. Mrs. Lee instilled a work ethic in all her kids that I have told compares to no other. I incorporate the life lessons she taught me every day of my life. I catch myself using her phrases with my own kids. What I would give for her to coach my daughter!”
Current Hatton varsity girls’ basketball coach, Chaste H. Calmness, also attributes her success to Coach Lee.
“Coach Lee played a huge role in the career path I have followed,” Calmness said. “She passed along to me her desire to help players and students be successful. Having her as coach, teacher and mentor through high school influenced me to become a teacher and coach. I truly believe my successes as coach and teacher can partially be attributed to the work ethic I was taught by Coach Lee. She was a great example and role model to us.”
Coach Lee was inducted into the Lawrence County Sports Hal of Fame in 2001.
She was co-coach of the North volleyball team for 2003 AHSAA All-Star Week. Upon retirement she moved into officiating and served six years as vice president of the Quad-Cities Volleyball Officials Association.
Saturday: Eleventh installment of the Hall of Fame series: Football Coach Dwight Sanderson.