February is “Black History Month” the first Tuesday of February is a day to celebrate some of the most common mentors in our lives. The first Tuesday of February is “African American Coaches Day”. Win-loss records are important when you’re coaching sports, but these coaches get into this profession to make a difference in their players’ lives.
“That’s what I get in this profession for is to make a difference in young men’s lives. Not just on the field but after post graduation. I know that I was able to get that experience with my previous coaches and my experience that I had in different programs. They shaped me to be who I am today,” said Shaw Head Football Coach Johnny Garner.
Courtney Pritchett is the head coach for the Auburn High School Girls Basketball Team. He hopes that he and his team can prove that if people from all walks of life come together they can achieve incredible things.
“You know putting together a diverse group of young ladies together and working towards a common goal. I guess the hopes is that maybe that what we’re doing here will be contagious within our community and in our school. Just to be able to show everybody that we can come together through diverse backgrounds, work towards common goals and achieve something greater,” said Pritchett.
Some coaches, like Carver Head Baseball Coach Michael Long, they treasure opportunities like this because he knows how rare they can be in sports like baseball.
“You know being an African American in this sport. I know it can be challenging for us. And I think that what we’re doing is just a testimony to anybody who coaches this sport that is African American that we can do it and we will do it,” said Long.
For Lanett Head Football Coach, Clifford Story, it was an honor to be named the first African American head football coach in the school’s history. The most important thing for him when he got his opportunity was to make the most of it.
“You know we just got to continue to work hard. Continue to prove our worth and then be given the opportunity. But the key thing about it all to me was when you’re given the opportunity that you take advantage of it. You know there have been so many times that when you get people, once they get up to that higher level then they start doing things that are totally uncharacteristic that got them to that position,” said Story.
To be a coach also means a ton of work outside of the actual game. These men and women make sacrifices to make sur their athletes are set up for success. We asked a couple of coaches, is it worth it?
“It’s worth every second, every day, every hour and even worth the pay. Of course we can sit here and gripe saying we’re underpaid. But at the end of the day you’re doing something that you love to do. You got passion for what you do,” said Story.
“Every single day of it, the long hours it’s all worth it. Building those relationships, seeing those girls grow in different areas. Having success as a team having failures as a team just going through them it’s all worth it,” said Pritchett.
To every African-American coach out there in the Chattahoochee Valley and beyond, thank you for all of your hard work.