MONTGOMERY – Seven individuals who have made an impact as exemplary role models have been selected as the 2016 Making A Difference Award recipients by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA).
One recipient from each of the AHSAA’s seven classifications was chosen from nominations submitted by AHSAA member schools and other support organizations. This year’s recipients are Kyle Garmon, Gaylesville High School (1A); Claborn Campbell, Cold Springs High School (2A); Stephanie Robinson, Fultondale High School (3A); Tena Niven, Montevallo High School (4A); Willie Moore, Dallas County High School (5A); Gary Hall, Carver-Montgomery High School (6A); and Kent Chambers, Bob Jones High School (7A).
The honorees will be recognized at the Championship Coaches Banquet at the Renaissance Montgomery Convention Center July 22. The 6 p.m. event will close out the 2016 AHSAA Summer Conference and All-Star Sports Week for member schools. The Officials’ Awards luncheon the following day at the Renaissance at 11:30 a.m. will officially close out the week.
The Making A Difference Award was established in 2011 by the AHSAA and AHSADCA to recognize individuals who go beyond their normal duties as a coach, teacher or administrator to make a positive impact in their schools and communities. This year’s recipients include two principals, a head football coach, two head basketball coaches, a head track coach and one head softball coach.
“The recipients in this 2016 Making A Difference class are more examples of men and women who take their positions as role models for their students, faculty and community very seriously. They are each excellent examples of what this award stands for. They have had a major positive impact in their communities and schools," said AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese. “This award is the most important honor a professional educator in our state can receive. Characteristics considered for this prestigious award include the recipient’s character, integrity and service, all of which have enabled these individuals to have a life-changing impact on the community or school where they serve.
Savarese said this special award exemplifies what makes education-based sports so important.
“We are very proud of all our coaches, teachers and administrators,” he said. “This is one way we can honor them for the examples they set and the life lessons they teach on a daily basis.”
Following is a brief synopsis of the Making A Difference recipients for 2016:
KYLE GARMON, GAYLESVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
Garmon, who has been at Gaylesville 12 years, is the head football coach and athletic director at the small school just north of Centre in Cherokee County. He is described by his principal as a man who “takes ownership of Gaylesville High School, serving whenever and wherever he is needed.”
He was an assistant football coach for nine seasons before becoming head coach prior to the 2014 season. A history teacher who teaches grades 7 through 12, he knows each student personally and goes out of his way to meet their needs in the classroom, in the athletic arena and in their personal lives when called upon. He is well-respected by the students and faculty as well as his coaching peers throughout northeast Alabama. In addition to his AD and football coaching duties, he is also head baseball coach. Moreover, he has coached virtually every sport offered at the school at one time or another – filling in at a moment’s notice when the need arises.
CLABORN CAMPBELL, COLD SPRINGS – An icon at Cold Springs for three decades, the boys’ and girls’ head track coach has worked tirelessly to build a track program that culminated with boys’ outdoor state championship in 2016 and with a cross country state championship last November. He is a man with strong faith and wisdom whom students and teachers alike turn to for guidance and is considered by his peers in the coaching profession as being the consummate teacher/coach who loves his students and loves his profession. He made his career about “family.”
He preaches to his students that “the true test of character comes when no one else is looking.” He backed his philosophy up in 2012 when he discovered a scoring error in the Class 2A Section 3 track meet final tally hours after his team had accepted the runner-up trophy for its outstanding effort. Correcting the error also meant dropping his team to third place in the final point tally. He reported the scoring error to meet director and good friend Keith Wilemon of Falkville and personally presented the trophy to Falkville High School, the rightful winners.
Wilemon said not everyone would have done what Campbell did. "This would probably never have been discovered, and the fact that Coach Campbell acknowledged the mistake and corrected it immediately is a testament to his honesty and integrity. As always, he and his team exemplify sportsmanship and class. We are honored to call him a friend. He is a wonderful example for all coaches."
Highly respected by her teachers and students, she has also earned the respect of District 5. Dr. Robinson was selected by that district to serve on the AHSAA Central Board of Control (2014-16), becoming the first person from Fultondale High School to have that honor. During her tenure, she helped to formulate some of the most important legislation in AHSAA history – personally submitting a proposal passed last April that helped the AHSAA develop its current plan to provide opportunities for the state’s non-traditional students. Her willingness to think about the bigger picture has not only made a major difference in her school but also for all schools in the state. A former history teacher, she has worked her way up the administrative ladder, first as Jeffco BOE Social Studies Supervisor, then as an assistant principal.
TENA NIVEN, MONTEVALLO – Miss Niven has served at Montevallo for almost all her teaching career. She helped develop programs for girls’ basketball, volleyball and softball – serving as head coach in all three at one time or another during her 15-year career. Currently, she serves as head coach for basketball and volleyball and added boys’ soccer in 2016 when the school decided to field a team for the first time. She also handles many of the administrative duties for other sports as well as working in athletic administration. She has become a fixture at all of Montevallo’s athletic events and is highly thought of by the students and faculty. She is constantly trying to find ways to get kids involved.
“I knew very little about soccer, but I learned that our kids really enjoy playing the sport,” said Niven, one of the most successful girls’ basketball and volleyball coaches in Shelby County. “It was an opportunity for us to meet a need for a group of kids in our school that might not be involved otherwise. I think I got the bigger blessing and am looking forward to working with these kids again next season.”
KENT CHAMBERS, BOB JONES – The Patriots’ softball coach since 1988 has been an ambassador for the sport since its beginnings in the AHSAA. He has hosted some of the biggest tournaments annually and is always finding ways to promote the sport. Well respected by his fellow teachers, Chambers, who has almost 900 career fast-pitch softball victories, also coached a variety of other sports during his long career. He announced plans to step down as softball coach after 2016 but plans to remain as a teacher. He is very active in local civic affairs in his home town of Eva where he serves as a city council member.
When the AHSAA began the transition to fast-pitch in 1995, Chambers embraced it and was in the forefront helping coaches at other schools make the necessary adjustments. He knew the sport well. He grew up hanging around the sport, first as a batboy then progressing to scorekeeper and team manager with older sisters who played in adult fast-pitch leagues.
He coached volleyball and girls’ basketball at Bob Jones before taking over the softball program in his third year at Bob Jones. Chambers coached three years of volleyball, six years of basketball and a year of swimming along with 28 years of softball. He has served the state’s coaches as a volunteer administrative coach during All-Star Sports Week and is a member of the AHSAA Softball Coaches Committee. Students and teachers alike marvel at how he gets the maximum from his students in the classroom and on the softball field using his kind and quiet demeanor.
He still lives on the family farm where he was born in Eva in Morgan County.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Richard Robertson, who retired as Andalusia High School boys’ basketball coach, is among 12 leaders in high school activity programs across the country that have been selected to receive National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Citations.
An award designed to honor 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, the NFHS Citation is one of the most highly regarded achievements in high school athletics and performing arts.
The 2016 NFHS Citation recipients will receive their awards July 1 at the 97th annual NFHS Summer Meeting in Reno, Nevada.
Robertson is receiving the NFHS 2016 Coach Citation Award. Other special citation recipients include: Mississippi’s Harold Cooper, NFHS Officials’ Citation recipient; Jay Dunnahoo, Music Citation recipient, executive secretary of the Texas Music Adjudicators Association; and Pam McComas, Speech/Debate/Theatre Citation recipient, retired director of forensics, Topeka (Kansas) High School.
Eight of the 12 award winners represent NFHS-member state high school associations. The other four Citation recipients represent NFHS professional organizations for officials, coaches, music leaders and speech/debate/theatre directors.
The eight state association recipients are Nina Van Erk, retired executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association; Butch Cope, associate commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association; Gene Menees, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association; Gina Mazzolini, assistant director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association; Kevin Merkle, associate director of the Minnesota State High School League; Peter Contreras, retired assistant athletic director at the Texas University Interscholastic League; Marc Ratner, Southern Nevada commissioner of officials for the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association; and Brad Garrett, assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association.
Robertson retired as the boys basketball coach at Andalusia (Alabama) High School following the 2014-15 season after 40 years at the school and 50 years in interscholastic athletics. Dating to his days as a high school athlete at Ralph Bunche High School in Andalusia, Robertson’s association with his hometown extends to 57 years.
During his remarkable career, Robertson compiled a 749-357 win-loss record to rank sixth in victories in state history. Among his coaching achievements, Robertson’s 2010-11 team registered a 31-3 record, and his 1996 squad won the Alabama High School Athletic Association state championship.
Despite these outstanding accomplishments, his “victories” off the court were even more impressive. “Coach Rob” as he was affectionately known was a tremendous leader who was a second father to many of his players and an only father to other boys during his coaching days. Among the many individuals who played for Robertson was Robert Horry, who was a part of six NBA championship teams during his professional career.
Robertson played a key role in helping Alabama move through the difficult time of integration as the AHSAA merged with the Alabama Interscholastic Athletic Association in 1968-69. Through the years, Robertson became a mentor to hundreds of coaches as he remained in his hometown of Andalusia throughout his career.
Mark Jones, Jacksonville State University Director of Recreational Sports for the last 32 years, will join the executive staff of the Alabama High School Athletic Association as Assistant Director overseeing officials, Executive Director Steve Savarese announced Saturday.
Jones, who will be replacing retiring AHSAA Director of Officials Greg Brewer, has been serving Jacksonville State University and the city of Jacksonville in various roles since 1984. A city councilman since 2008 and a member of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors since 2013, Jones has also served as a contest official for more than 30 years. He has officiated high school basketball, football and baseball during his career spending eight years officiating women’s basketball in the NCAA as well. He has also taught sports officiating classes at JSU for 28 years in multiple sports including football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball and baseball.
“We are fortunate and delighted to have Mark Jones joining our staff,” Savarese said. “He is a talented individual of strong character who has been an outstanding contest official and mentor of officials in the AHSAA for many years. He has already been an important member of our AHSAA family while working in athletic administration at JSU and through his work as a teacher of sports officiating. Greg Brewer served the AHSAA for more than three decades. While we are saddened to see him retire, we wish him well and feel certain that Mark Jones will step in and aptly lead our more than 7,000 contest officials and will become an important addition to the AHSAA family.”
Jones, the AHSAA East-Central District football director of officials since 2007, was also founder of the Mt. Cheaha Basketball Officials Association. He served as president and assignor for the East Alabama Basketball Officials Association and has been an AHSAA state football camp instructor for 14 years. He was a founding member and current treasurer of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame serving on the board for the past 11 years.
A 1978 graduate of Guntersville High School, Jones earned his Bachelor’s degree in Education from Jacksonville State in 1982 earning a double major in physical education and sociology. He completed his Master of Science degree in physical education at JSU 1984.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to accept this position with the AHSAA,” Jones said. “This is a dream job for me. Sports and officiating have been a substantial part of my entire life. I know it will be a challenge for me to maintain the standard that has been set by Greg Brewer. Because of Greg, officiating in Alabama is well respected across the nation.
“I want to thank Jacksonville State University for the opportunity to serve as Director of Recreational Sports the past 32 years. Jacksonville has been my home since 1978 when I entered JSU as a freshman. I am looking forward to this new challenge.”
Among his many duties at Jacksonville State, Jones has been building manager for Stephenson Hall and Pete Mathews Coliseum and facilities manager for outdoor playing fields and tennis courts. He has also been judicial coordinator and served on JSU’s Budget Committee, Personnel Council, Athletic Council, University Forum and the school’s Wellness and Alcohol and Drug Abuse committees. He also served as Northeast Regional basketball tournament coordinator for the AHSAA since its inception in 1994.
Brewer, the senior member of the current AHSAA executive staff, announced his retirement plans last April. He will officially step down August 31. Jones will join the AHSAA beginning July 25.
About Alabama High School Athletic Association
The AHSAA, based in Montgomery, AL, is the state leadership organization for its member high schools in Alabama. Since 1921, the AHSAA has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports (currently 24 sports, 11 each for girls and boys and the newest sport bowling, added in 2015-16). Through its more than 700 member high schools and junior high/middle schools, the AHSAA provides guidance and sports championships for more than 155,000 student-athletes annually and oversees the rules and regulations for the students and more than 10,000 member coaches and administrators. The AHSAA is recognized as the state authority on interscholastic athletic programs and is considered a leader among NFHS state associations. For more information, visit the AHSAA website at www.ahsaa.com.