Six named to receive AHSAA Making A Difference Award

Six Recipients Announced For AHSAA

2012 'Making A Difference' Award

        MONTGOMERY – Six individuals who have made an impact as exemplary role models have been selected as 2012 Making A Difference Award recipients by the Alabama High School Athletic Association and the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association.
        The six will be recognized at the AHSAA Championship Coaches Banquet at the Renaissance Montgomery Convention Center July 13. The 6:30 p.m. event will close out the 2012 All-Star Sports Week and Summer Conference.

One winner from each of the AHSAA's six classifications was chosen from nominations submitted by AHSAA member schools and other support organizations.  This year's recipients are Renard Davis, McIntosh (1A); John Smith, Hatton (2A); Frances Shipp, Weaver (3A); Richard Robertson, Andalusia (4A); Janet Latham, Athens (5A); and Peter Braasch, Vestavia Hills (6A).

The 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.

"We think these six recipients are prime examples what this award stands for. Each of them has made a major difference in their communities and schools and have been excellent role models for the students and faculty," AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said.  "This award is the most important honor a professional educator 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."

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."
        The Awards Banquet will also recognize coaches who led their teams to AHSAA state championships during the 2011-12 school year.
        The Dr. Larry Lemak Award, a $2,500 need-based grant, will also be presented to 10 member schools. The Lemak Award is now in its fifth year with $130,000 distributed to 45 schools since its inception.

Here is brief synopsis of the Making A Difference Award winners::

Class 1A

Renard Davis, McIntosh High School

Davis led McIntosh to a 24-1 record and the 2012 state title in girls basketball and won back-to-back Class 1A crowns in 2006 and 2007. The Lady Demons won 64 straight games from 2006-2008 with a perfect 27-0 season in 2007 and a 29-1 season in 2008 as McIntosh lost in the state finals. He has compiled a 344-57 record as a head coach. A Clarke County High School and Stillman College graduate, he has become a fixture around McIntosh using a simple philosophy of hard work and dedication to achieve so much success.
        In 2011, he took over the football program at the last minute and led the Demons to a winning season and an upset win over powerful Brantley in the state playoffs.
        Davis, who is described as humble and kind by his principal, Dr. Joannee Barnes, also serves as an administrator at the small Washington County school and has been a steadying influence amid many changes through the years.

Class 2A

John Smith, Hatton High School

Smith, the head softball coach, also serves as an assistant coach in football and girls basketball. His Lady Hornets softball team won its second straight Class 2A state championship in 2012, compiling a 42-10-2 overall record.
        Principal Brent Gillespie says the state titles are evidence that his teaching and coaching style works. But that only shows part of the impact Smith has had on the students and faculty members at Hatton.
        "John Smith has been a huge asset to our faculty and staff while he has been at Hatton High School," Gillespie said. "He has had a great impact on our student-athletes. He is a caring man who works well both with varsity football, middle school basketball and girls softball. He has the respect of our community and other coaches."
        According to Gillespie, Smith goes out of his way to help meet student-athletes' needs, including helping them find jobs when they need to help support their families.
        "He is a hard worker who has always done everything asked of him," said Gillespie.

Class 3A
Frances Shipp, Weaver High School
Shipp, a 1978 graduate of Albertville High School, began her teaching/coaching career in 1982  at Weaver High School after earning a degree in Education from Jacksonville State University. She remained a volleyball coach and health/science teacher at the school until 1998 when she became an assistant principal.
     Generally considered the Weaver Bearcats' most passionate supporter, Shipp was promoted to principal in 2003 where she remained through the 2011-12 school year. She now works for the Calhoun County School System as an assistant superintendent.
    Her passion for her students and faculty has filtered down into every aspect of life, she said. She attended virtually every school sporting event and other school functions during her teaching/administrative career.
    More evident, however, is her personal interest in each child. She has had a major role in helping students find the direction and personal incentive to reach for the stars.

Class 4A
Richard Robertson, Andalusia High School
"Coach Rob" has been a fixture in Andalusia athletics for more than 45 years – even longer dating back to his own playing days at Andalusia's now-closed Ralph Bunche High School from 1958-61. In 36 years as head boys basketball coach, Robertson has compiled a 722-331 record including a 31-3 slate in 2010-11 and the 1996 state championship.
        He is currently the AHSAA career wins leader for active boys basketball coaches and ranks sixth all time with his 722 wins. His victories off the court are even more impressive.
        Just look at his top standout, NBA great Robert Horry.  Horry played 16 seasons in the NBA earning seven NBA championship rings along the way. He credits Robertson's guidance in his developing years as a big reason for his longevity and success.
        Robertson is a leader of young men, a coach who has been a second father to many and the only father figure to even more. His disciplined style of coaching may be considered too demanding for today's modern-era player, but it is vintage "Coach Rob."
        He makes no apologies for his "old school" brand of coaching and makes no excuses when his team loses. He simply makes up his mind to work a little harder, push his players a little farther and promises to correct mistakes quickly.
        Robertson has never made coaching about himself. Kids today respond to his caring style the same way they did when he started in the 1970s.
        "It's not about me," Robertson told the Andalusia Star-News following his 700th win. "I've coached 1,015 games since I've been here, and I've tried to win every last one of them. I'm proud to get the win.
    "Andalusia's legacy is success," he said. "We preach that. I'm more proud of the kids – I just stayed around here longer."

Class 5A
Janet Latham, Athens High School
        Latham has been one of the chief advocates of girls education-based sports in the AHSAA. A 1976 graduate of Lee High School in Huntsville, she graduated from the University of Alabama in 1980 with a degree in education and earned her Masters from the University of North Alabama.
        She began teaching for the U.S. Department of Defense in Okinawa Japan in 1984, then began her long tenure at Athens in 1985-86 as a physical education teacher and volleyball, basketball and tennis coach. Latham currently facilitates the Alabama High School Graduation Exam remediation program and serves as the school technologist.
        Latham admits she grew up a gym rat as the daughter of a coach, under whom she developed the passion that has helped her serve as a voice for girls athletics in Alabama. She currently is a volleyball official and girls golf coach. She also has helped guide girls athletics into the 21st century with her latest contribution – the development of live statistics technology for the AHSAA state softball tournament.

Class 6A

Peter Braasch, Vestavia Hills High School

Braasch has been an assistant football and basketball coach at Vestavia Hills High School for 35 years – playing key roles on the staffs of Hall of Fame coaches Buddy Anderson and George Hatchett en route to state championships in each sport.  He isn't your typical assistant coach, however.
        While he has had numerous opportunities to become a head coach, he has carved his niche into the hearts of the hundreds of student-athletes he has worked with through the years.
        Principal Cas McWaters says Braasch is a leader on his faculty, with his strongest attribute being a burning love for his students.
        "He has an unusual way of being tough, yet highly respected by his players," McWaters said. "He wants his players to understand the game and learn life lessons. He also has a genuine personal concern for his players even beyond their high school years.
        "I remember just a couple of years ago when Peter drove to a college campus and confronted a former player who was struggling with substance abuse. He recently intervened in another situation for a former player, and I went with him recently to a player's house because the player was suicidal."
        Such commitment is rare in any profession according to McWaters.
        "While I know many coaches make an extraordinary impact on players, Peter truly makes positive life impacts on players when many of us would rather stay clear of the situation," McWaters said. "Peter Braasch is making a difference."