After a two-year absence, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) is holding its first in-person Summer Conference and All-Star Week all-star games since the COVID-19 global pandemic disrupted high school sports in the Spring of 2020.
From July 19-23, between 7,000 and 8,000 high school coaches, administrators, student-athletes and their families will gather in Montgomery to celebrate one of the largest annual conferences in the state of Alabama.
The Conference and All-Star games are important professional development, homecoming, reunion and celebration, all rolled up into one.
About the Week
“The conference, banquets and all-star games are the culmination of the past year and the start of a new year,” described Jamie Lee, AHSAA Assistant Director and organizer of the event.
This is AHSAA’s 25th Summer Conference and annual All-Star Week since expanding the format to include multiple sports competitions and multiple sports clinics. The AHSAA’s first Summer Clinic was held in Tuscaloosa in 1948.
There are three components to this special week, according to Lee.
Here is what to expect.
All Star Games
All-Star Sports Week is the place one can see Alabama’s best and brightest rising high school seniors compete against each other—North vs. South—all week long in Montgomery!
“We try to make it about the kids as much as we can,” said Randy White, the legendary Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame girls’ basketball and softball coach from Athens High School.
Even though White retired 17 years ago, he continues to help organize and run the annual North-South All-Star competition as an AHSAA Administrative Coach during All-Star Week.
And according to White, you never know if you may be seeing a superstar in the making.
“What really sticks out to me is Kyle Wright, who pitched in our all-star baseball competition. Four or five years later he pitched for the Atlanta Braves as a rookie and in the National League Championship Series seventh game.”
The games are meaningful to players and coaches alike.
Haleyville High School’s Jay Mitchell, the manager of this year’s North Baseball All-Stars, added, “It is so much fun to meet those kids who are the best players in the state — to have a day or two with them and see them showcase their skills. It is a tribute to them and their high school coaches who have really worked hard to make them better players. The game is also a treat for their families and their schools. It’s a joy to be a part of that.”
The competitions are open to the public and tickets are only $5. Here is the schedule (Link to Locations, Times and Tickets):
July 19 – Baseball at Riverwalk Stadium
July 19 – Golf (Boys and Girls) at Arrowhead Country Club
July 20 – Tennis (Boys and Girls) – Lagoon Park Tennis Complex
July 20 – Basketball (Boys and Girls) – Montgomery Multi-plex at Cramton Bowl
July 21 – Softball – Lagoon Park Softball Complex
July 21 – Soccer – (Boys and Girls) – Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex
July 21 – Cross Country (Boys and Girls) – Gateway Park
July 22 – Volleyball – Montgomery Multi-plex at Cramton Bowl
For coaches and administrators, the AHSAA offers invaluable professional development and coaching clinics. It is one of the reasons why high school athletics in Alabama is highly regarded and respected nationwide.
During the week there are:
- “Coaching Schools” for football, baseball, softball, wrestling, basketball, track & field, soccer and cheer
- New Coaches Orientation Clinic
- Athletic Director and Principal Conference
- Rules Clinics
- Medical Best Practices (this is especially important in the age of COVID)
The conference even offers a course on school bus recertification, which ensures the people transporting student-athletes are qualified and the buses are safe.
More importantly, the conference connects all 700+ AHSAA member schools, coaches and administrators.
“Seeing and learning from peers in your profession from every corner of the state makes a difference,” stressed AHSAA’s Jamie Lee.
“The friendships matter too,” Lee said. “I had a coaching friend from Mobile that I didn’t get to see during the course of the year. I always got to spend time with him when we came to Montgomery. We have that kind of relationship in all sports across the state. The conference brings everybody together and provides the opportunity to socialize and get some information from your peers.”
Award Luncheons and Banquets
Throughout the week the conference will host luncheons and banquets that celebrate, honor and recognize the accomplishments and individuals that stood out over the past school year.
“We honor state championship coaches, Making a Difference Award winners, as well as member schools that have earned what we call the Sportsmanship Award,” said Lee.
For the 2020-21 school year, 130 high schools will receive the Sportsmanship Award for having no ejections or sportsmanship related fine.
The Making a Difference Award is one of the AHSAA’s highest honors for coaches. This year’s recipients are:
- 1A – Anthony Edwards, Loachapoka High School
- 2A – Matt Kennedy, Westbrook Christian High School
- 3A – Ryan Hall, Oakman High School
- 4A – Eddie Bullock, Anniston High School
- 5A – Chris Bashaw, Guntersville High School
- 6A – Joe Webb, Mountain Brook High School
- 7A – Nancy Shoquist, Mary Montgomery High School
A Remarkable Year
It has been two years since the last AHSAA Summer Conference and All-Star Week was held in person
. Despite the global pandemic that cut short the 2020 Spring season, high school sports in Alabama returned on time in the fall of 2020.
Every sport started their seasons and finished their championships as planned as the AHSAA crowned 115 state champions in 2020-21.
Beginning July 19 through July 23, high school sports will be celebrated in the Capital City and old friends will reunite. The 2020-21 school year will be remembered one last time.
On July 24, the day after the conference ends, the new 2021-22 begins. As one AHSAA official once told me—at that moment, “everyone is undefeated.”