About five years ago I told my dad, who is one of my biggest fans but also one of the most blunt people you’ll ever meet, that I wanted to be the first female head coach in the NFL.
“You can’t do that, Lauren,” he said.
“Why?” I argued.
I was expecting some drawn-out response about how I didn’t know enough about football.
“Because you can’t go in the men’s locker room,” he said flatly.
Ah, I hadn’t thought of that.
That was my senior year of high school, and never did I think I would be where I am now.
I grew up an UGA fan; my grandad attended college there in the ’60s and the red and black passed down into my veins. I learned to spell Georgia by chanting the fight song in my head (I still do subconsciously whenever I have to write it out!) I had an UGA cheerleader outfit and one of my baby pictures has me holding a stuffed bulldog. One of my nana’s fondest memories is of dancing around the living room with me as an infant when Georgia scored a big touchdown against Georgia Tech. I’ve never considered myself athletic, but I believe I owe a lot of my passion for sports to Papa Skip and Nana.
Flash forward a few years and the first time I stepped foot on a sideline was as a cheerleader for the 8th grade Mill Creek rec football league. Cheerleading was not for me, and within a year I traded in pom poms for a six-foot flag pole as a member of the Mill Creek High School Colorguard.
In high school I lived for Friday night lights, and I have many fond memories of screaming myself hoarse for the Hawks while in the stands with the marching band. It was a well-known fact that I was the most spirited person in the band when it came to football, and while my coach would be yelling at me to pay attention during our warm-ups I’d be busy trying to figure out how much yardage we’d gotten from the last pass.
I guess my fellow classmates took note of my love for the game as well, because they voted me their Homecoming Queen my senior year. That is still one of my all-time favorite memories from high school- hearing my name called while standing on the 50 surrounded by family and friends.
I graduated from Mill Creek in 2015 but I had a hard time staying away from Markham Field. The University of North Georgia doesn’t have a football team, and Mill Creek decided to get really good the year after I left (this was the fall of 2015, the year they got knocked out by Colquitt County one round before the state championship.)
In the spring of 2016 I heard of an opportunity to work for the Gwinnett Braves, Triple-A minor league affiliate for the Atlanta Braves. Needing a summer job but hoping to avoid retail, I took it. I spent the next two summers as a Guest Relations Representative scanning tickets and welcoming fans. In addition to my already-sound knowledge of football, I learned all I could about America’s favorite pastime and a new love was born.
I spent one more summer at Coolray Field before graduating college, and this time it was as a member of the Promotional Team. That may be the most fun I ever had at work. Our team set up the on-field promotional games, signed up contestants, sold 50/50 raffle tickets and overall worked to make sure people had a good time. I certainly did- the memories I made with my team that year will forever be some of my favorites.
For a while I told people that I wasn’t interested in sports journalism, but the Lord as he fortunately often does had other plans. I got the opportunity to intern with the UNG Athletic Department my senior year of college, and I left Gwinnett County to plant some roots in the North Georgia mountains.
Two months ago I still wasn’t certain that I’d ever work in sports again, but when baseball started back up I knew I couldn’t live without it. I was fortunate enough to find an opportunity to apply with FetchYourNews.com, and even more fortunate to get an offer. And here we are.
I don’t tell you all this to brag on my accomplishments or give you some long-winded biography. I want to be just as much a part of your community as you all are now a part of my daily life. When I come to your sideline I want to know each of you and each of you know me. Part of being a great sports reporter is establishing a relationship with your team and community. Part of that relationship includes establishing trust, and how can you can trust someone if you don’t even know them?
One of the biggest reasons I keep working in sports is because of the the communities they create and the people I get to meet. There’s something about having a team to rally around that gets inside of you and never leaves. The people I have met so far and the connections I have made are priceless and will forever be a part of who I am and a big reason for why I do what I do.
So here’s to the journey ahead, and here’s to memories that are yet to be made and the relationships yet to be formed. I can’t wait North Georgia!
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School celebrated today, April 29, with family and friends of four athletes who ceremonially signed commitments to colleges and universities, advancing their sports careers to the next level.
The special day saw not only those friends and family members, but coaches, school administrators, and even Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs present to honor the work and achievements of these four at the “Spring Signing Day” event.
Tyson Elliott signed his commitment to the University of the Cumberlands, located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, where he plans on playing football. Elliott is currently looking to play Right Tackle. He says his next goal is to join the travel squad his freshman year and hopes to continue working hard towards that goal. He will be studying to major in Mathematics Education and possibly minoring in Coaching as he hopes to one day become a coach at either the middle school or high school levels.
As he transitions into collegiate sports, Elliott said he is excited about the coming challenges. Having put in the effort to get to this point, he said that he feels like it’s all paid off to have a college offer him a spot and to take that step to the next level. He went on to add, “Pretty much it’s everything I’ve been looking forward to. It’s kind of hard to explain, honestly.”
Grace Pleasant signed her commitment to Berry College, located in Rome, Georgia, where she plans on competing on the swim team. She swims the 100-meter breaststroke and some freestyle. Attending Berry College, Pleasant said that she plans on completing the dual-degree program. Then she plans on transferring to the Georgia Tech. She wants to major in Environmental Engineering.
As she transitions into collegiate sports, Pleasant said it has been a major impact on her life as she never thought she would be able to keep swimming into college. She started swimming at 10-years-old and also swam for a club team in Dalton. Noting the passion she has had for swimming all her life, Pleasant was excited to have Berry College give her the chance to continue that saying, “I’m really honored that they would want me.”
David Smith signed his commitment to University of the Cumberlands, located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, where he plans on playing football. Smith is currently looking to play at the Quarterback and Receiver positions. He said he is excited for the challenge of the next level of his sports career as he faces harder challenges and what he calls the “learning experience” as he sees the differences between high school and collegiate football. He plans on majoring in Education in order to come back to the high school level to coach football.
As he transitions into collegiate sports, Smith is looking forward to both aspects of college as he says he will get to play the sport he has been a part of his entire life while also having that pay for part of his tuition. He went on to say, “It’s gonna be a big step, like the workouts are going to be harder. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting to be on a bigger team.”
Austin Daman signed his commitment to Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia, where he plans on playing baseball. He plans on pitching for the team. Coming off of a tear of his UCL tendon in his arm, Daman has already conquered one challenge as he recovered faster than expected and is already pitching again in preparation for his collegiate years. He plans on majoring in Business and minoring in Sports Management. Though he didn’t comment on any future plans after college, he did not he wants to see where life takes him.
As he transitions into collegiate sports, Daman said it means a lot to even be able to play college baseball after his injury, even more that his hard work has paid off to continue pitching and to be in the position he is now. He said, “All glory to God for him to be able to get me to where I am. I couldn’t have done it without him.” Daman also gave credit to his Dad for his pushing and support and instilled his drive and belief to put forth the effort that was necessary to achieve this goal.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Coming one month after the school system updated its coaches supplemental salaries policy, the Board of Education is adding an assistant cheerleading coach position for Clear Creek Middle School (CCMS).
Adding the supplement of $750, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said the need comes from the head coach also coaching soccer and needing a second to help fill in when necessary as she balances the two positions.
This was one point of discussion in March between certified assistant coaches versus lay coaches. A fully certified assistant does not need to be supervised. It was part of District Athletic Director Rodney Walker’s comments for the policy changes saying that the change limited lay coaches in favor of certified personnel.
Additionally, the board later approved the Fiscal Year 2020 Academic and Activity Supplements Schedule for the coming school year. Athletic Supplements were previously approved in March.
The Board also approved this month’s Personnel with six resignations and two retirements. The school system has already completed approvals of administrative renewals and certified staff earlier this year to aid in hiring new staff that are also found in the personnel report.
Tuesday night has come and gone for the ladies and gentlemen of Gilmer basketball as the Northwest Whitfield teams came to the Cage for a region battle.
Taking the court first for Gilmer was the Lady Cats led by Coach Susan Nunn. With a 10-2 overall record thus far in the 2018-2019 season, the Lady Cats have played very well together as a team. Tonight they continued to do so in spite of falling to the Lady Bruins 56-44. Northwest brought a little more than the Lady Cats could handle in Jada Griffin. Leading all scoring in the game, Griffin was unstoppable with 21 points with two of her Lady Bruin teammates scoring in double digits as well. For Gilmer, MaryLee Callihan led the team with 15 in the losing effort. These Lady Cats never quit fighting and drew within 6 points early in the fourth period before the Lady Bruins stretched the lead to the final deficit for Gilmer at 12 points in the end.
In the final game of the night, the varsity boys for Northwest and Gilmer took the floor. This game followed the path of the ladies competition just before. The Bobcats could not get the ball to find the net all night. Carter Hice, David Smith, and Tripp Pierce gave all they had with great looks from both inside the paint and also from the perimeter but nothing would fall the Bobcats way. Credit needs to be given to the Bruins defense as they outrebounded the Cats leaving very few opportunities for a second chance at putting points on the board. In the 80-54 loss to the Bruins, Kell Weaver led Gilmer in points with 14 on the night followed by Braden Jenkins who came off the bench to score 13 points. Leading all scorers in the game was Chris Cunningham of the Bruins with 28 including a perfect night from 3 point range with 4.
The defeats for both the Cats and Lady Cats bring their overall records on the season to 10-3 as they head into the holiday break. Gilmer is scheduled to play in a Christmas tournament on the 27th with Heritage as their scheduled opponent. Gilmer basketball will fire up again as 2019 presents itself and the Cats and Lady Cats will continue to bring the heat on the basketball court.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County has been searching for a new coach since the official announcement of the resignation of Casey Wingard.
It seems that Gilmer’s Christmas present could be a new coach. Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs announced that she expected a meeting to be called for next week in which information on the new head coach would be released. She stated, “Once the final selection is made and references are checked, then I will ask the Board to hold a called meeting next week so that we can name that coach before we go home for Christmas break.”
With 55 people showing interest and 44 of them completing applications process. Eventually, the Board narrowed this to seven people selected to be interviewed.
That meeting has now been announced. On Monday, December 17, 2018, the Board of Education will be holding a Special Called Meeting. There are actually two items on the agenda, one simply states personnel, if approved this personnel item could hold the name of Gilmer’s newest football coach.
The other agenda item relates to recent events regarding the resignation of Board Member Nick Weaver. Appointment for vacant board seat” is the item on the agenda. Yet, no indication has been made yet if this is to actually announce the newest member or simply to begin open board-discussions.
One meeting could, hopefully, fill two large gaps in Gilmer County’s School System by Christmas.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – December saw six new members inducted into Gilmer County’s Hall of Fame between Friday’s, December 7, Girls and Boys Basketball games.
Celebrating the accomplishments of these people both during and after high school, the ceremony honored these individuals and their families. Coming from several different walks of life and spreading to even more after high school, Gilmer welcomed these stars home to the Gilmer’s Court for the special day.
Donna Cowart Mousa was in the Class of 1978. She played Basketball, Track, and Tennis. Named as the GHS Basketball MVP for 3 years, she was also voted as Most Athletic Female during her Senior Year. She was later awarded a scholarship to Clemson University where she lettered in Basketball and Field Hockey. She joined All ACC Field Hockey for three years and was named as an All American Honorable Mention for Field Hockey.
Pam Gibson was in the Class of 1987. She played Basketball, Tennis, and Softball. Named to All State Basketball in 1987, she also became GHS Lady Cats Player of the Year in both 1985 and 1987. She was also awarded Top GHS Female Athlete of the Year in 1985. She was Basketball Team Captain in 1986 and Co-Captain in 1987. Gibson achieved Top 8 in AA State Singles Tennis Tournament in 1985. She was later awarded a scholarship to Troy State University where she became a Freshman Starter averaging 15 points-per-game.
Mike Brumby was in the Class of 1988. He played Football, Basketball, Baseball, and Golf. Named All State Honorable Mention for Football in 1987, he was also named All State Honorable Mention for Basketball in 1988. Receiving several GHS Awards in both football and basketball, he became the GHS Basketball Player of the Year in both 1987 and 1988. He is currently a Whitepath Golf Club Pro in Gilmer County.
Candy Pankey Ledford was in the Class of 1993. She played Basketball, Softball, Tennis, Track, and Cross Country. Named Second Team All State Basketball in both 1992 and 1993, she also was awarded the GHS Female Athlete of the Year Awards in both 1990 and 1991. She also received the GHS Most Athletic Female Award in 1993. She was later awarded a scholarship to Reinhardt College from 1993 to 1995 and was then awarded a scholarship to Augusta State College from 1996 to 1998.
Neil Gary was in the Class of 1997. He played Football and Wrestling. Named State Wrestling Champion in both 1996 and 1997, he also achieved a total Career Wrestling Record of 63-22 with 41 career pins. He also was named GHS MVP in Wrestling in 1995, 1996, and 1997. He later served eight years in the United States Marines and was Decorated for Valor in Iraq.
Robert “Bob” Becker is being inducted into the 2018 Support Category for achievements at GHS High School where he taught from 1977 to 2014. He was Public Address Announcer for Band, Football, Basketball, and Baseball. He holds degrees from Jacksonville State, Georgia State, and Lincoln Memorial. To this day, he says he is first to be known as a man of God.
On the night of November 1st, 2018 the Bobcat Wrestling Nation came together for a time of honor, memories, and the desire for current and future athletes to never forget. These athletes can now see the history of Bobcat wrestling and with every match honor and continue the legacy of those from the past.
Spearheading the efforts, Mark Waddell took a comment from his son Matthew and ran with it. Waddell with help from several others received the go-ahead from school officials to start the project. These parents and fans of Gilmer Wrestling dedicated their time and skills to take the upstairs room and through hard work made it into a useful locker room and a shrine of sorts to those that have made the program what it is today.
Each and every time the athletes walk in the door they will be reminded of the history, hard work and dedication that is Bobcat Wrestling. News clippings and photos fill every wall from youth involvement to those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Country. On that day there were smiles as former greats and their families walked through and memories of those that are no longer with us. The namesake for the locker room is Will Gudger. Will tragically lost his life in a car accident in November 2016. Gudger was a 2015 graduate of Gilmer High School and a member of the Bobcat Wrestling program. Noah Harris is also honored as part of the history that fills the new locker room. Harris graduated from Gilmer with State Champion credentials and Captain of the football team in his pocket. Though Harris was confident he was never cocky. This gentle-hearted soul had family and friends collect beanie babies to give to the Iraqi children as he served in the United States Army. The ultimate sacrifice was given by Harris on June 18, 2005, after an attack by enemy forces.
Coach Josh Ghobadpoor and his staff are not only preparing the athletes for a match on the mats but they also continue the tradition of former coach Sam Snider in preparing these young men for life after high school. With 17 state titles, the wrestling program speaks for itself and continued hard work will produce even more. Best of luck to the current and future Bobcats as they take to the mats. For the former Bobcats, thank you for your dedication to making Gilmer Wrestling what it is today.