See how a 39-year-old letter about playing in a high school all-star game inspired the leader of the AHSAA

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AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs addressing the Summer Conference, July 21, 2021; Montgomery, Alabama (Marvin Gentry)

In a recent newsletter column written to member schools, Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Executive Director Alvin Briggs shared a remarkable letter. 

Here is the story.

Thirty-nine years ago, as a high school senior from Greenville, Alabama, Briggs received a personal note from then-AHSAA Executive Director Herman L. “Bubba” Scott. 

You heard that right. Without knowing it, Scott had corresponded with the future AHSAA Executive Director, who was still a high school student.

“That letter hangs proudly in my office to remind me just how much we can influence the student-athlete,” Coach Briggs wrote in AHSAA’s June/July 2022 Update newsletter.

Hard Work and Responsibility

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AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs addressing the Summer Conference, July 21, 2021; Montgomery, Alabama (Marvin Gentry)

The letter starts off congratulating Briggs for being selected to play in the 1983 AHSAA North-South All-Star Football Game. But, instead of stopping there, Coach Scott incorporated AHSAA’s mission into the note and reminded the young man his selection was made possible not only by his hard work, but also his coaches, teammates and everyone around him in his community.  

“You represent the finest among high school athletes in the great state of Alabama. You reflect the training, discipline, and integrity of the total high school athletic programs.  You are a product of the many hard hours of training put into the high school programs by all the coaches and players.  You have a great responsibility to these people.” 

—Excerpt from 1983 letter by Herman L. “Bubba” Scott to Alvin Briggs.
Bubba Scott Letter
(AHSAA)

Nearly four decades later, Briggs, who became only the fifth Executive Director in the association’s 100-year history last July, continues to carry on the mission Mr. Scott described in his letter. 

One way he does that is through the annual AHSAA Summer Conference and All-Star Week.

Summer Conference and All Star Week

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Kim Vickers, Associate Executive Director speaking at the AHSAA Summer ConferenceJuly 21, 2021; Montgomery, Alabama (Marvin Gentry)

The idea of an All-Star Week and coaching clinic in Alabama began in 1948 when the AHSAA held its first All Star football game and coaching clinic in Tuscaloosa. In 1951, they added the boys’ all-star basketball game. NFL Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Leroy Jordan and Ken Stabler all played in the early years as high school seniors. Charles Barkley, Alabama’s most famous NBA Hall of Famer, also made the all-star roster as well as hundreds of outstanding boys’ and girls’ high school student-athletes selected for their exceptional talent and leadership while in high school since then.

By 1997, thanks to the explosion in popularity of high school athletics in both boys’ and girls’ sports, AHSAA expanded the format to include multiple competitions, clinics and professional development opportunities, not only for coaches, but principals, athletic directors and trainers. The All-Star Week now includes all-star competition for boys’ and  girls’ basketball, soccer, cross country, golf and tennis as well as boys’ baseball, girls’ softball and volleyball. The annual All-Star Football Game is now played in December at Mobile.

This year, from July 18-22, between 7,000-8,000 high school coaches, administrators, student-athletes and their families will gather in Montgomery to attend the conference and games.

During the entire week, there is one thing the games and the annual conference are designed to do — teach the mission of the century-old organization, a mission the schools established in 1921 and continue to live by. Here are the words:

“The AHSAA serves member schools through interscholastic competition by enhancing student learning, sportsmanship, safety and lifelong values. With integrity as its foundation, the AHSAA consistently governs the rules created by member schools.”

How do you move from words embedded on paper to helping the student-athletes, schools and communities across Alabama? 

It’s About  Student-Athletes and Professional Development

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Dr. James Robinson speaking at the AHSAA Summer Conference, July 21, 2021; Montgomery, Alabama, (Marvin Gentry)

What do Auburn Basketball Head Coach Bruce Pearl, Alabama Head football Coach Nick Saban and his nationally renowned football team doctor Dr. James Robinson have in common? Each has participated in the AHSAA Summer Conference. 

Every year, the conference lives out the AHSAA mission by bringing in the best instructors in their field to teach sportsmanship, health and safety, and the X’s and O’s the many sports and activities offered by the AHSAA.

For example, all the principals and administrators attend a mandatory meeting presented by Dr. James Robinson, who, along with taking care of the Crimson Tide, chairs the AHSAA Medical Advisory Committee. Keeping everyone on the same page, administrators learn the latest health and safety practices and trends. 

A national leader in the field, the AHSAA has pioneered and implemented initiatives such as:

  • Installing defibrillators in every school
  • Creating pre-participation plans including a pre-participation physical form for all student-athletes that was written by Dr. Robinson himself.
  • Developing and implementing emergency action plans at every school

Coaching School

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Auburn University Basketball Head Coach Bruce Pearl instructing a AHSAA coaching clinic. Photo via Matthew Nibbet for Bham Now

When it comes to coaching, AHSAA attracts some of the most talented coaches in the state, region and nation to teach at the“Coaching School.” In fact, you can’t blame folks if they get a little starstruck walking around the Renaissance Hotel, site of the conference in Montgomery. Last year, joining Coach Pearl at the conference was the Tigers’ new Head Football Coach Bryan Harsin. Not to be outdone, the Tide sent over their popular men’s basketball coach Nate Oats and football offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. 

And that’s football and basketball. Other “ coaching schools” in session at the 2022 July conference include:

  • Soccer
  • Cheerleading
  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Track and Field
  • Volleyball
  • Wrestling
  • Bowling

For the AHSAA’s high school coaches, it is not just learning the latest plays or training techniques. To ensure AHSAA fair play and sportsmanship, all middle, junior, and high school head coaches must complete a rules clinic or online exam in their sport prior to the beginning of their sport’s season.

Additional Professional Development

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AHSAA 2021 Summer Conference. ( Bham Now)

Perhaps one of the most invaluable professional development programs the AHSAA conducts for its members during the conference is the orientation sessions for first-time coaches, athletic directors and principals. Along with bringing new administrators up to speed, they also hold seminars on legal issues and time management.  

The Summer Conference also offers the Certified Athletic Administrators (CAA) Exam and seminars.  

Health and Safety—Bus Drivers and Prostate Exams

Hoover City Schools
The city is anticipating the news buses. (Hoover City Schools / Facebook) 

We tend to take bus drivers for granted, but the AHSAA recognizes the important role they play in transporting student-athletes all around the state. That’s why there is a bus recertification clinic offered during the week.

One last benefit from the conference you ordinarily don’t see is time set aside to screen coaches and administrators for prostate cancer. Conducted for several years now, the tests helped Coach Briggs and former Executive Director Dan Washburn discover the cancer and treat it. The tests helped save their lives.

The All-Star Games

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AHSAA Baseball All-Star game. Photo via AHSAA

Beyond the conference, the most popular events during the entire week are the All-Star games. It is a chance for student-athletes from the smallest school to the largest to compete against each other and have fun. It’s a celebration.

Here is the schedule for the week.

  • Baseball – Riverwalk Stadium – July 18, 4:00 pm
  • Golf (Girls) – Arrowhead Country Club – July 18, 10:00 am
  • Golf (Boys) – Arrowhead Country Club – July 18, 10:00 am
  • Cross-Country (Girls) –  Gateway Park – July 19, 7:30 am
  • Cross Country (Boys) – Gateway Park – July 19, 8:00 am
  • Tennis (Girls) – Lagoon Park Tennis Complex – July 19, 8:00 am
  • Tennis (Boys) – Lagoon Park Tennis Complex – July 19, 8:00 am
  • Basketball (Girls) Montgomery Multiplex at Cramton Bowl – July 19, 5:00 pm
  • Basketball (Boys) Montgomery Multiplex at Cramton Bowl – July 19, 6:30 pm
  • Softball – Lagoon Park Softball Complex – July 20, 4:00 pm
  • Soccer (Girls) – Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex – July 20, 5:00 pm
  • Soccer (Boys) – Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex – July 20, 7:00 pm
  • Volleyball – Montgomery Multiplex at Cramton Bowl – July 20, 4:00 pm

All About the Student-Athletes

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Softball AHSAA Summer Conference.(Matthew Niblett/Bham Now)

Mr. Briggs would probably be the first to agree that being named an All-Star was a key part of his path to where he is now, an AHSAA leader. Other All-Stars can point to a similar boost. This year’s All-Star Games will showcase these amazing student-athletes.

It doesn’t stop there. In this state, over 150,000 rostered middle school, junior high and  high school student-athletes have a chance, as well, to become an All-Star on the field and in life because their coaches and administrators have absorbed AHSAA’s mission and values.

It’s all about the kids, and the member schools, Central Board and staff of the AHSAA don’t ever forget that. 

And our state is better off because of their dedication and commitment to the AHSAA Mission.

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