Starkville High School athletic director Stan Miller, top left, was on hand to watch Emily Turner and Hannah Laird win the Class 5A State Championship in girls doubles earlier this year. Through the efforts of Turner, Laird and many other athletes and coaches, the Yellowjackets were able to capture the All-Sports Trophy in Class 5A this year. (Submitted photo)
Starkville High School athletic director Stan Miller was not shy about letting people know what his goal was for the 2011-12 school year.
He was confident the Yellowjackets had what it took with all sports under his watch to capture the Class 5A All-Sports Trophy.
In the opening session with coaches almost one year ago, Miller shared that vision with the coaches.
"I said that there's no reason this school district with the facilities we've got, the budget we've got and athletes we've got that we can't compete in 5A for the All-Sports Award," Miller said. "We've been close in the past, but never won it."
That changed earlier this week when Miller got word that SHS had won the All-Sports Trophy in Class 5A.
Beginning with swimming, cross country, volleyball and softball, the Jackets started out the school year strong, then football came charging into the picture quickly.
Miller said it's important to have a well-rounded athletic program.
"Too many years, the Starkville athletic program supposedly hung its hats on football, basketball and baseball," Miller said. "That's not the case now. We have such a comprehensive program. We offer all of the sports except archery and we're going to start a little intramural program at Armstrong (Middle School) in the fall which I hope will unfold into another varsity sports and will give us everything we need."
The list of accomplishments for SHS are many with football making the state championship game, boys and girls cross country having two top five team finishes with Kate Mattox winning an individual state title, boys basketball making the state tournament once again, girls basketball losing in the North State Tournament to the eventual state champion in overtime, the boys soccer team winning the state championship, the girls soccer team making the second round of North State, baseball making the third round of state, bowling making it to the state tournament and finishing in the top 10, the fast-pitch softball team making the playoffs, boys and girls swimming finishing in the top five in the state, boys and girls golf finishing in the top 10 at state, boys and girls outdoor track finishing in the top five at state and Mattox once again picking up individual state titles in distance events, indoor track finishing in the top 10 at competition in Birmingham, Ala., boys and girls powerlifting finishing in the top five at the state meet, the tennis team reaching the state tournament and the girls doubles of Emily Turner and Hannah Laird winning the state championship, and cheerleading winning several ribbons for its performances.
Miller knows it takes more than one person to put together such a good run and it doesn't happen overnight.
"Athletic directors don't win All-Sports Trophies," Miller said. "It's dedication from our coaches and our players.
Miller wants the best coaches in the best positions to be successful. It's not his philosophy to make coaches work more than one sport.
With that in mind, Miller went out and hired Chris Barnett as boys track coach when Cleveland Hudson retired and kept up that theme recently when Steve Griffin came in to replace the departed Barnett.
"I don't want a football coach that says I can coach track and I don't want a basketball coach that says I can help you in volleyball," Miller said. "Cleveland was one of those football coaches that loved track too, but I didn't need a football coach, I needed a track coach. Coach Barnett comes in and it was track, track and more track, then you come along and pick up Steve Griffin, again a track man. He played football, but he's a track man.
"If you look at our coaches, they are specialized today and that wasn't the case 30 years ago. We had coaches coaching three or four different sports. The athlete of today is so much better than any of us. They are so fine-tuned, in shape and with the nutrition they do.
"There's no doubt we're not big enough where an athlete can specialize in just one sport, but we've got kids that cross over from track to swimming to soccer. The key to success is making sure our coaches communicate and work together in allowing our kids to participate in multi-sports."
Miller gave examples of the Mattox family and the Woomer family as those with children that have the ability to play multiple sports.
As far as the coaches he's hired like Jamie Mitchell in football, Brian Jones in baseball, Griffin in boys track and Barnett before him, Miller believes they are a part of "a great staff."
"Starting with coach Mitchell when I came on board, you can't find a better football coach, but he's also a people-person and a man who is loved by his players," Miller said. "You can go on to our baseball selection. Brian Jones has a young team, but the things he is incorporating to his players and coaches is tremendous. As much as Danny Carlisle did, this is going to be the next level."
Miller appreciates the efforts of Barnett and Caroline Woomer to help develop a well-rounded track program and feels it won't miss a beat with Griffin coming in.
"Even though a few years ago we had a tremendous track program with Tavaris Tate, you still didn't have the comprehensive track program with cross country, indoor track and field events to go along with running events so it was a plus to bring in a tremendous track coach," Miller said. "Coach (Caroline Woomer) does a great job with cross country and the girls program."
Miller also appreciates the network of assistant coaches and said it makes for a quality department from top to bottom.
(Editor's Note: This is the first story of a two-part series on the state of the Starkville High School athletic program which just won the All-Sports Trophy for Class 5A of Mississippi High School Athletics Association.)
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