Carver’s Hall; Dallas County’s Moore tabbed as 2016 ‘Making A Difference’ Award winners

MONTGOMERY, Ala. ( – 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:

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.

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.”

Dr. Robinson has been one of the state’s outstanding young principals, serving at Jefferson County’s smallest but fastest growing high school. A former shortstop and pitcher at Corner High School in Jefferson County, her leadership has helped establish Fultondale as one of the more well-rounded Class 3A schools in the AHSAA. She has earned a reputation of taking on all challenges, no matter how big or small, and figuring out ways to make them work.

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.

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.”
The boys’ basketball coach has built the Bulldogs program into one that is now highly regarded. His teams demonstrate what is right about high school sports. A quiet coach who demonstrates strength by his calm demeanor, he has gained the respect of teachers and students alike. His teams reflect his personality on and off the court. His 2014 team won a state title against some big odds, and his 2015 team returned to the Final Four by outscoring its Central Regional finals opponent 10-0 in the final 56 seconds to win 66-57.

With coaching stops at West Blocton and Bibb County, he finished 2016 with a 503-151 record with the Bulldogs handing his 500th career win in January. His reply to win 500 was simple. “It is not about me but about these kids.”

He also serves as girls’ softball coach and is assistant principal athletic director at Dallas County.

The principal at Montgomery’s Carver High School worked night and day to change the image of his school’s athletic program after a fight involving his schools at the Central Regional was shown around the world in 2009. Promising to make changes, he held true to his word as he rolled up his sleeves, developed a plan and implemented an action that is now a model of sportsmanship being used by other schools. His teams are also successful at every level on and off the court.

He has shared that message every chance he gets. The former Carver High School English teacher has provided leadership programs that train and allow his student-athletes to teach the message of sportsmanship and commitment to younger students in the elementary and middle schools.

He is most proud of having the opportunity to serve his students, equipping them to be productive and successful citizens for the rest of their lives. His seminars provide direction for students and parents alike on the behavioral expectations and standards established for all his students. He serves as president of the Montgomery Principals’ Association and has been a regular speaker at AHSAA training functions.

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.

Categories: High School, Sports