After their departure, I felt compelled to let the people in Piedmont, Calhoun County and northeast Alabama know what outstanding representatives of your community these student-athletes, coaches, support staff and fans were during their time at the Super Six.
All of the individuals who made the two-hour trip to Tuscaloosa were outstanding ambassadors of their community. They not only conducted themselves in an exemplary manner on the field, but off the field as well. In every situation, they conducted themselves with class and dignity.
Having served as the spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education for more than 15 years, I have a clear vision and understanding of what is required to have the type of representation that was displayed in Tuscaloosa earlier this month. The success for Piedmont High School and its program starts with Superintendent Matt Akin and Principal Jerry Snow. These gentlemen provide the leadership and support to produce the environment necessary to enjoy the level of excellence you are experiencing.
Of course, the highest accolades go to Piedmont's outstanding young football coach. As a player, school-system administrator, parent and fan, I have had the privilege to watch hundreds of coaches lead their teams in athletic competitions for more than 30 years. I can honestly say that I have never been more impressed by a coach than I have been by Steve Smith.
Many people have the ability to coach football, or another sport, and can encourage their student-athletes to perform at a high level. Several coaches have the ability to get more out of the player than they actually should be able to give; however, very few can do this and direct a championship program. Furthermore, only a handful of coaches have the desire to do this while leading a life that is Christ-honoring and providing a potentially life-changing influence for the student-athletes under their direction. Smith is one of these individuals.
This statement may be difficult for some to understand, but Smith is more concerned about the personal welfare, growth, development and maturation of his charges than he is about how many wins and losses he produces. Make no mistake, he wants to win — he has a state championship trophy to show for it — and he prepares his players to be in a position to win.
However, he knows that a football game is only 48 minutes long, yet many of the decisions these young people face are life changing. He sees his goal — his mission in life — to properly and appropriately prepare them to be able to make great decisions about their futures, not just the next play or the next game.
The Piedmont community is fortunate to have Steve Smith lead its football program. Yes, he is a great football coach, but he is a better man than he is a coach.
John H. Merrill is director of community relations and community education for the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education.