Making A Difference Award Winners Named
Six individuals who have made an impact as exemplary role models have been selected the 2013 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 six classifications was chosen from nominations submitted by AHSAA member schools and other support organizations. This year’s recipients are James Lucas, Notasulga (1A); Tammy West, Cold Springs (2A); Jim Burkhalter, Fayette County (3A); Richard Brown, Beauregard (4A); Dan Buczek, John Carroll Catholic (5A); and Pat Hamrick, Thompson (6A).
The six will be recognized at the Championship Coaches Banquet at the Renaissance Montgomery Convention Center July 19. The 6 p.m. event will close out the 2013 Summer Conference and All-Star Sports Week for member schools. The Officials’ Awards luncheon will be held the following day at the Renaissance at 11:30 a.m. to officially close out the week.
The AHSAA Summer Conference and All-Star Sports Week gets underway Monday with professional development sessions for coaches during the day and the North-South All-Star baseball games at Riverwalk Stadium at 4 p.m.
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.
“We think the members of our third class of Making A Difference recipients are wonderful examples of what this award stands for. Each has made a major difference in their communities and schools. All are excellent role models for the students, faculty and community," AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said. “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.”
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 banquet will also recognize coaches who led their teams to AHSAA state championships during the 2012-13 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 sixth year with $155,000 distributed since its inception.
Here is brief synopsis of the Making A Difference recipients for 2013:
James Lucas, Notasulga High School
Lucas serves as head football coach, boys and girls track coach and Notasulga’s athletic director. Lucas led his football team to an 8-4 record and a perfect 7-0 region slate to capture the Region 4 title. The boys track team finished sixth in the 2013 Outdoor Track Championships at Selma.
The former Billingsley High School football standout spends countless hours working with all students at NHS, said principal Brelinda Sullen.
“He works from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to sleep at trying to help children,” said Sullen. “He is a man with a pure heart. He is a man of character with a sincere heart who goes the extra mile to make a difference in a child’s life.”
Tammy West, Cold Springs High School
West has built Cold Springs into one of the top girls’ basketball programs in Alabama with 10 straight Northwest Regional Tournament appearances and three state titles in her storied coaching career. Her 2008 state championship team was 36-1 and the 2009 state champs were 34-1 – 70 wins in two seasons. Her overall record is 467-151 with 16 regional appearances overall, four regional tournament titles and four Final 48 berths.
Also the head softball coach, West teaches in the elementary school. She says getting to know the students early in a classroom setting has been very important in her coaching career. “I want my students to see me as a positive role model, loyal and a good mother,” she said. “We are role models whether we like it or not and it is important to lead by example.”
Her teams annually are among the highest academically in the state.
“Tammy West has taken our basketball program to another level, but that is just part of it,” said principal Tommy Youngblood. “She is so good with these kids. My kid played for her, and she is now about to graduate nursing school. Mrs. West is a big reason. My kid would go through a wall for Coach West. She loves her that much.”
Jim Burkhalter, Fayette County High School
The Gordo High School standout athlete joined his former high school football coach Waldon Tucker at Fayette County more than two decades ago. He has served as head baseball coach and defensive coordinator in football during his tenure. Last year’s football team finished 13-2 and reached the state finals. His baseball team won 20 games and reached the state playoffs.
Principal Jeremy Madden said Burkhalter’s leadership and character was never more evident than in recent years when the coach and assistant principal battled throat cancer.
“His unselfish and positive example inspired our entire town,” said Madden.
Tucker, Fayette’s long-time coach who retired with a state-leading 309 wins, said Burkhalter is the kind of coach every staff needs
“I told my two boys that I wanted them to grow up to be just like Coach Burkhalter,” said Tucker. “He is the example of what I wanted my boys to become.”
Richard Brown, Beauregard High School
The long-time principal at Beauregard High School has been described by assistant principal Charlie Hughes as “the glue that holds this school and community together.”
The school’s overall athletic program has enjoyed perhaps its best period ever in recent years with the football team setting a state record with 11 wins in 2012. The girls track team was runner-up in the Class 4A State Outdoor Championships for the second year in a row 2013, and the boys finished third in 2012. The girls were also third in the 1A-4A division of the indoor championships in 2013.
The baseball team reached the 4A state finals in 2012.
Brown has had the football stadium named for him at Beauregard. He has been an officer in District 4 and a long-time member of the Legislative Council. He currently is a member of the AHSAA Central Board of Control. The former Smiths Station athlete is also on the board of directors of the National Association of Secondary Schools.
Teachers and students alike adore their principal, Hughes says because they know Mr. Brown loves them too.
Dan Buczek, John Carroll Catholic High School
Dan Buczek has served in many capacities at John Carroll over the last 29 years, most notably as athletic director since 1991. Coach Buczek, who is starting his 35th year as an educator, began his career with coaching stints at Chavala High School and Jemison before joining the John Carroll staff in 1985.
Buczek has been an assistant football coach, 9th grade boys’ basketball coach, assistant wrestling coach, and head girls’ tennis coach. In his 16 year as girls’ tennis coach his teams compiled a record of 182-17 in dual matches. His team captured the 5A state championship in 2000 and was runner-up in 1999. He coached 24 individual and doubles state champions.
Since becoming athletic director, he has guided an overall athletic program that has won 20 state championships and has had 25 state runner-up finishes. Under his leadership, John Carroll was awarded the Birmingham Kiwanis Club All-Sports Award in 1996 and 1997. Over the years his athletic programs have produced numerous all-state players, individual state champions, three national prep All-Americans, one NFL player, one NBA player, a two-time prep Mr. Basketball and several players who have gone on to represent their colleges in the NCAA Sweet 16, NCAA College baseball and softball world series.
John Carroll volleyball coach and assistant athletic director Frances Crapet said Buczek’s commitment to students and the mission of John Carroll has always been evident. “He is a strong leader who works hard to keep education-based athletics a positive character builder for all our students at John Carroll,” she said.
Pat Hamrick, Thompson High School
As a baseball coach at Thompson, Hamrick has earned the admiration of his peers as a man of character and dedication. His 2013 Warriors baseball team finished the season 39-9 to set a school record for wins.
Hamrick is equally committed as a special education teacher – working daily with children who need his kind and warm disposition.
Dr. Daniel Steele, principal at Thompson, says Hamrick is “very unselfish, a valuable team member of the Thompson faculty who is always stepping forward to go above and beyond to help out anywhere he can – whether it is cutting the grass or picking up and taking out trash in the lunchroom. He is a true workhorse.”
Hamrick helped inspire his school and community when he stepped forward following the tragic death of special education student Josh Carden’s grandfather. Hamrick, who had befriended Carden even though he had never actually had him in his classroom, was there beside the youngster helping Josh and his grandmother cope with their tragic loss. It inspired a student body that started the “Josh Carden Project,” which helped provide much-needed financial assistance and eventually led to Josh and his grandmother to getting a new home that was constructed handicap accessible throughout.
“That is the kind of man he is,” Steele said. “His caring spirit and example to our students inspire us all. He is truly making a difference.”