Frances Crapet’s burning passion has had a major impact on John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham. In fact, one former student lauded her volleyball coach as “fueling the fire for athletics at John Carroll Catholic.”
Crapet, a 1976 Birmingham-Ensley High School graduate and 1980 graduate of the University of Montevallo, found her home as a teacher/coach at Alabama’s second largest Catholic high school for the last 30 years.
And on March 21, she will find another home as a member of the Class of 2016 as the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) inducts Crapet and 10 others into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. She is going in as a member the 26th class since the Hall of Fame’s inception in 1991.
Joining Crapet in the Class of 2016 are football coaches Richard Beverly, Tandy Gerelds and Ike Grant, basketball coaches Mike Cochran and Jerome Sanders, volleyball coach Brenda Mayes, baseball coach Earl Miller, wrestling coach and official Dwight Buzbee, volleyball official Apple Kridakorn and coach/administrator Alfred Peavy, who was selected in the “oldtimer” division. Peavy and Gerelds are deceased.
The Hall of Fame banquet will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. A press conference will precede the dinner at 5:30 p.m.
Crapet began her teaching and coaching career at W.A. Berry High School in 1984, guiding the volleyball team to the state tournament in both 1984 and 1985.
In 1987 she moved to John Carroll Catholic High School as volleyball, basketball and softball coach. She only coached basketball for three years but enjoyed great success in the other two sports.
Her volleyball teams won back-to-back Class 5A state championships in 1996 and 1997 and finished as Class 5A runner-up the next two years. Her teams were in the semifinals in 2001 and 2006 and the quarterfinals in 2000, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Crapet was named Metro Coach of the Year in 1996 and South Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2012.
Her softball teams were in the state tournament three times, advancing to the semifinals in 2000. She was named Coach of the Year in 2004.
In 2004 she added assistant athletic director duties at John Carroll Catholic and moved up to the athletic director position in 2014. She retired from active coaching in 2012. During her administrative tenure, John Carroll won back-to-back Class 6A state boys’ basketball titles – filling up the BJCC with 18,000 fans in the 2004 boys’ finals versus Parker. John Carroll’s volleyball team, girls’ soccer and girls’ cross country teams have won 5A state titles the last two seasons as well. The volleyball coach is former Crapet student and assistant Ginny McMillan.
Former student-athlete and now colleague Lee Ann Fuller reflected on the impact that Crapet had on her life.
“As a student-athlete with Frances as my coach, I learned to be dedicated and disciplined in practices and games and also to enjoy the moments in high school sports that pass so quickly,” Fuller said. “Frances taught us that being on time to practice meant being early, which instilled in us the important life skill of punctuality. The discipline that she modeled by having us in condition throughout practice – even when our muscles were weak and tired – taught us the life skill of perseverance.
“Along with these important skills we learned to enjoy what we were doing and to take none of it for granted. When I was not on the court, I was tracking statistics for our team. I wrote our team quote on the top of every stats page for the 1996 season: ‘If there were no tomorrow, how hard would play today?’ Frances used that quote to remind us that time passes quickly, and we have to take advantage of every moment we have. She taught us so many important life skills as our coach and mentor.”
Angela Johnson Marshall, a former volleyball and softball player, remembers how getting to know Coach Crapet through summer camps generated “excitement and family-type atmosphere” with the girls she coached.
“Through her ability to share her passion for her athletes, academics and women’s sports, Coach Crapet fueled the fire for athletics at John Carroll Catholic,” Marshall said. “My time in school was an exciting period for both programs. Coach (Crapet) had recently taken the softball program from slow pitch to fast pitch and the volleyball team, just like today, was winning big. Coach escalated the level of play in women’s sports it JCCHS…She built a fan base and a community around her sports programs.”
She said Crapet’s band of past student-athletes has continued to support John Carroll’s girls’ athletic program.
“Coach Crapet’s players are the type that come back to see her, to cheer on current players and even come back to coach,” Marshall said. “I do not know many coaches like Coach Crapet who exhibit true leadership on a daily level and care about the mental, physical and emotional well-being of their players. Coach Crapet is one of a kind and a legend at John Carroll Catholic. I could not be more delighted that she has the title of athletic director.”
Former athletic director Dan Buczek credited Crapet with starting the John Carroll Middle School athletic program as well.
“Her dedication to the well-being and development of her students has been the driving force of her career,” he said. “Commitment to improvement of student-athletes is a very unique attribute. This is something that cannot be acquired with experience. It comes from the heart as an unselfish desire to see others succeed and prosper.
“Individuals with such a commitment are rare. And if your daughter or son was blessed to be coached by Frances Crapet, he or she was coached by an educator with an altruistic devotion to her student-athletes.”
COMING WEDNESDAY: Installments 5 and 6 (football coaches Tandy Gerelds and Ike Grant) in this 11-part series on the AHSHOF Class of 2016.
The secret of Fyffe High School girls’ basketball coaching legend Mike Cochran’s success was actually very simple.
His former principal Danny Ashley explained. “Coach Cochran said many times he did not know how to coach girls, so he just coached them like he did the boys,” he said. “In his second season at Fyffe (1985-86), his team won the first of seven state championships in girls’ 2A basketball.”
Ashley added, “Coach Cochran was a master at taking average players and average teams and helping them become overachievers. He had high expectations of his players and instilled this in players and teams. Fyffe expected to win each time they walked on the court. During his coaching career, Coach Cochran raised girls’ basketball to a new level in Alabama.”
Cochran, a 1979 Fyffe High School graduate, will be among the 11 inductees in the Class of 2016 of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The induction banquet, hosted by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA), will be Monday night, March 21, at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. A press conference introducing the 26th Class will be held at 5:30 at the Renaissance.
Other members of the Class of 2016 include football coaches Richard Beverly, Tandy Gerelds and Ike Grant, basketball coach Jerome Sanders, volleyball coaches Frances Crapet and Brenda Mayes, baseball coach Earl Miller, volleyball official Apple Kridakorn and coach/administrator Alfred Peavy, who was selected in the “oldtimer” division. Peavy and Gerelds are deceased.
Cochran returned home after graduating from the University of Alabama in 1983 and accepted a teaching and coaching position at Fyffe. In 1984 he was named assistant football coach for Ronnie Haushalter and head basketball coach for the girls’ program. It was a position he would hold for 28 years with unparalleled success.
Among the superlatives:
-- Runner-up in the 1991 state tournament.
-- Additional state championships in 1992, four in a row from 1994-97 and 2000.
-- Seven Class 2A State Tournament MVPs: Regina Logan (1991), Heather Mays (1992,
1994, 1995), Joy Simmons (1996, 1997), Rebecca Long 2000), and 12 other All-
Tournament selections from 1991-2000.
-- 628 career victories.
--17 DeKalb County Tournament championships and eight Sand Mountain Tournament championships.
Fellow teacher and team statistician Harold A. Bouldin said unhesitatingly that what Coach Cochran did at Fyffe was groundbreaking.
“Before Mike Cochran came along, women athletes were second-class citizens in DeKalb County, merely tolerated rather than appreciated,” said Bouldin. “His program changed all that and encouraged the other programs to strive to be successful. I would say that he did more for women’s athletics than any other person in the history of the DeKalb County school system. His teams were the pride and joy of the Fyffe community. I have never known a better motivator or coach… If I had to pick one coach to prepare for and win one game, it would be him. He was the best at game preparation for any coach I have ever known.”
Cochran’s impact on his players has been evident by the number that followed into the teaching profession, said Bouldin.
“Coach Cochran has had an even greater impact on the young ladies he molded into winners. They are mentally tough and know how to pay the price of victory. They will tell you that Mike Cochran had a tremendous impact on their lives with the example he set for them. I count at least 10 who are teachers, not to mention countless other professions. They learned to do things the right way…The Cochran way.”
Heather Powell, a former player, said Cochran “led a generation of young women to believe that they could accomplish anything they determined worthy to undertake.” She said he pushed and challenged them daily to achieve greatness.
“First, like any great leader from history, Coach Cochran started with a vision,” Powell said. “As a football coach, [he] worked with young men. He was asked to take the helm of the girls’ basketball program…What an adventure that would prove to be. In a time when girls’ basketball in Alabama was not of the greatest importance, Coach Cochran fiercely led the ladies to victory on a grand stage. He would not be satisfied with anything less than greatness, and he would show the ladies at Fyffe how to achieve.
“Secondly, he shared with us the values and work ethic that have proven to serve as essential building blocks for our life philosophy. He taught us not to fear but to prepare better, to train harder and battle more intensely. He poured into us a driving sense of perseverance and fight that is unrivaled and continues to drive me today. Thirdly, the young women that have come from the Mike Cochran era at Fyffe have become coaches, teachers, church leaders and professionals in various fields. The years of his life which he so graciously extended to his players taught us how to give and believe in something bigger than ourselves. For that I am forever indebted to him and his family.”
Wednesday: The AHSHOF Class of 2016 series continues with installments 5 and 6 (football coaches Tandy Gerelds and Ike Grant).