Coaching summer games an honor

By Donna Stephens Originally Published June 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 14, 2013 at 4:16 p.m.
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When the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star Week coaches convene at the University of Central Arkansas today, several will be there to represent the River Valley & Ozark Edition coverage area.

Shane Thurman of Pottsville is the head coach for the West boys basketball squad. Other area coaches on the rosters as assistants include Randy Tribble of Greenbrier, West football; Cade Smith of Central Arkansas Christian, East volleyball; Joe Allbritton of Mayflower, East baseball; Luke Davis of Conway St. Joseph, West baseball; Brian Strandlund of Vilonia, East boys soccer; Matt Page of Greenbrier, West boys soccer; Jessica Beaver of Maumelle, East girls soccer; and Emily Carlton of Heber Springs, East cheer.

Thurman, 41, makes his first all-star appearance in his 16-season career.

“Wow, it’s a huge honor,” he said. “Probably the part that is most exciting for me is that you’re chosen by other coaches.”

He said the process for selecting the coaches involves each conference choosing one nominee. Following the state championship in each sport, a preliminary vote for all the nominees is held to whittle the list to seven. A second vote yields the head coach (whoever receives the most votes) and the assistants (the next highest totals).

Thurman’s West assistants will include Kyle Adams of Fayetteville, David Ferrell of West Fork and Chris Nail of Benton.

“It’s a huge honor for me to be on a staff with guys who have been as successful as those three,” Thurman said.

Coaches will report today, Father’s Day, with players following on Monday. Practices for all sports will begin Monday. Baseball and softball doubleheaders are set for Tuesday, soccer and volleyball are scheduled for Wednesday, basketball will go Thursday, and football will conclude the week’s festivities on Friday.

For basketball, that means five practices. For football, it’s more. For baseball and softball — the first games to be played — it’s just two.

Besides those activities, the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Coaches Clinic will run in Conway Tuesday through Friday.

Thurman said he has two goals for the week.

“The first is, we want the kids to have fun,” he said. “It’s an honor for them to have been chosen. And we want them to have a chance to showcase their abilities in front of the whole state. If you’re playing in one of the smaller classifications, sometimes people don’t know you outside the area, so this is a chance to showcase their abilities on a wider stage.”

All-Star Week was traditionally held at UCA before the AHSCA moved the activities to the University of Arkansas as the week’s activities expanded to six sports. The event returns to Conway for the first time in several years.

“The biggest positive for me is the central location,” Thurman said. “Coaches feel like they can get here from all over the state, so All-Star Week and the coaching clinic will be better attended because coaches in the south and east, particularly, can get here easier.”

Tribble makes his second appearance as an Arkansas all-star coach after just his fifth year in the state’s high school ranks. He coached at his alma mater, Harding University, from 1981-2008.

“Back in the old days, I remember watching all-star games at UCA, and then they moved it back to Fayetteville for several years,” he said. “I was excited that it was just right here and not a three-hour drive. I was real excited it’s back in central Arkansas. I’m looking forward to that.”

He said that during his first all-star experience, he enjoyed getting to know coaches he’d worked against and making good friends in the field.

But at 58, he knows the week is also a grind. Since the football game is on Friday, the final one of the week, football coaches and players have the longest all-star experience. Generally, they work out twice daily until tapering to once a day as game time nears.

“It’s hard work,” he said. “I was worn out last time after it was over. It’s hot and hard work, and you’re staying in a dorm room, not sleeping in your own bed. But it’s an honor to get to do it and to be working with all-stars and an all-star coaching staff.

“We get to watch all the other games during the week, so it’s a week full of activities and an honor to get to do it. You don’t know if you’ll ever get to do it again, so you want to enjoy every bit of it.”

Smith’s first all-star experience will be his last, at least for the foreseeable future.

The CAC coach is leaving Mustang Mountain to become an assistant volleyball coach at the University of Alabama-Huntsville under former Harding University coach Keith Giboney.

Smith, 30, was head volleyball coach at CAC for five years, assistant girls basketball coach for six and assistant boys basketball coach for three.

“It’s cool,” he said of the honor of being named to the all-star staff. “Logan Tolbert, [CAC’s] good middle hitter, is playing, so I get to experience that with her, and coach Giboney’s daughter Emily is on the team, so I get to coach her, too. I’ve coached Logan for four years and known Emily for 10, so it’s definitely an honor.”

Smith, who is from Paragould, worked as Giboney’s graduate assistant at Harding in 2005.

He said one of the things he is most looking forward to is the opportunity to work with good coaches. Vicki Gatewood of Nettleton is the head coach of the East; Melissa Williams of Piggott and Craig Cummings of Jonesboro will complete the staff.

“There’s a lot of experience in that group, so it will be fun to get to hang around with them, and getting to watch the girls experience that will be pretty cool, too,” Smith said.

None Donna Stephens can be reached at .

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