E.A. Sports Today

Smith honored for answering ‘true calling’

Editor’s Note: This piece first appeared on the East Alabama Sports Today Facebook page in June.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Piedmont football coach Steve Smith looks at what he does as something a lot more than a job. To him, it’s truly a calling.

Smith is one of six winners of the 2014 Making A Difference Award by the Alabama High School Athletic Association and the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association, an award that transcends his success on the field.

The award goes to a recipient from each of the AHSAA’s six classifications who goes “beyond their normal duties as a coach, teacher or administrator to make a positive impact in their schools and communities.”

The other recipients include Jerome Sanders, J.F. Shields (1A); Amy Warrick, Goshen (2A); Rusty Bates, Ardmore (4A); Ron Smith, Brewer (5A); and Robby Parker (6A). They’ll all be recognized at the Championship Coaches Banquet in Montgomery July 25.

“This is probably as meaningful an individual award I have ever received,” Smith said. “Hopefully, we’re making a difference in the lives of kids who come in contact with me — that’s what teaching and coaching is all about. If you don’t love kids and don’t love all the kids you don’t have any business in teaching and coaching.

“I think teaching and coaching is a calling. It’s not just something you pick to do because you like the hours or whatever. If you do it the right way it has to be a true calling.”

As dedicated as Smith is to his calling, instead of staying in Montgomery overnight after the banquet, he’s heading right back home to prepare for a 16-team passing camp the Bulldogs are hosting at their school the next day.

AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese called the award the “most important honor a professional educator in our state can receive” and described this fourth class of honorees as “excellent examples of what this award stands for.”

The group includes one principal, one full-time athletics director and head coaches in football, boys basketball, volleyball and softball.

Smith was an all-state quarterback at Cherokee County High School, then played and coached at Jacksonville State, serving as a student assistant on the Gamecocks’ 1992 national championship team. He has carried those leadership skills with him through his professional career, imparting those lessons to his quarterbacks the same way they were extended to him as a player.

You can’t argue with the results. He was a winner at Cedar Bluff and has been Piedmont’s football coach and athletics director since 2006, winning a state title there in 2009. Overall, his teams have won 10 or more games 12 times in 19 seasons, including the last seven in a row.

As the Bulldogs’ AD, he has seen the wrestling team win the school’s first state championship (2009), the boys’ basketball team reach the Final 48, the boys’ track team win two straight outdoor titles and the baseball team go deep in the state playoffs each of the last three years.

“I don’t view my job as work, I really don’t; I thoroughly enjoy every day,” Smith said. “Couple that with having a wonderful wife and kids of my own, I think I have the best life in the world. I get up every day happy.”

As the award denotes, there’s more to Smith than what goes on between the white lines. His goal is to provide his students a chance to succeed after high school, whether that extends to a college athletic field or the job market.

He has left such an impression on his charges over the years former players regularly reach out to him to share good some news in their lives or seek guidance.

“A lot of times the most important job a coach does is behind-the-scenes stuff when you’re not practicing or playing,” he said. “Just like with our kids, we want them to have it better than we had it.

“I tell them I’m not here to replace your parents. If they’re doing it right, I’m here to complement what they’re teaching you, but if you don’t have that, I’ll try my best to fill the gap and teach you the right things.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login