Twenty-two years: seems like a lifetime; seems like just a moment. This will be the last article I write for the GHSA newsletter before I retire, and there is so much I would like to say. It has been my good fortune to serve in the chain of Executive Directors starting with Sam Burke and going through Bill Fordham and Tommy Guillebeau. I certainly appreciate the fact that the GHSA Executive Committee was willing to hire a relatively unknown person to the staff in 1992, and I really am grateful that they allowed me to serve as Executive Director for the past 12 years. I am looking forward to watching the continued progress of the GHSA under the leadership of Gary Phillips.
Interscholastic athletics and activities in Georgia just keep getting better with incredibly gifted students guided by talented coaches. It has been a pleasure watching their exploits over these years. The school administrators in this state sometimes take unjustified criticism in the media (and in their communities), but I have found them to be dedicated people facing increasingly difficult tasks. These leaders have been tremendously important in the work of the GHSA. While I understand that stories about students, coaches, or administrators who have made mistakes that became negative stories can be found in the media, those situations are not the norm.
From my first days as Commissioner of Officials of the GHSA, I was surrounded by talented, hardworking staff members. “Back in the day,” all the GHSA work was accomplished with five people in the office. Over the years, the expectations of people about the work of the GHSA led to the expansion of the services the GHSA provided – and to the expansion of that staff to 13 people. It still amazes me about how much high-quality work these men and women turn out on a daily basis.
The whole landscape of school-based athletics and activities has gotten more complicated in the past 22 years. Media coverage of high school athletics is a good example. Back in 1992, people were mostly concerned about “prep coverage” in print media. Tommy Guillebeau ventured into the area of live television coverage of championship football games, and that has evolved into the extraordinary programming that GPB has done with football, basketball, and cheerleading productions. In addition to television, the GHSA is involved now with streaming productions in all areas of athletic competitions through the NFHS Network. Many member schools utilize this technology for campus productions of all types, and many of these productions are carried out by students.
Controversy is a constant companion with competitions. There are vocal critics of the GHSA about particular situations that arise from time to time, and even some who criticize everything about the GHSA. While that can be discouraging, sometimes that criticism has led the association to improve its policies and procedures, and that has been positive. There are some things in the body of work of the GHSA that have not been resolved and accomplished in the past 12 years that I have served as the Executive Director. But I am optimistic that the association will continue to move toward these resolutions and accomplishments.
I do want to thank all of the people that I have mentioned in this article – the students, coaches, administrators, Executive Committee members, staff members, media personnel – and yes, even the critics. The high points of the past 22 years far overshadow any disappointments or difficulties. I look forward to visiting high school competitions beginning next fall as a fan – without any of the worries or responsibilities for what happens at those events.
– Ralph Swearngin, Executive Director