Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Long Overdue but Right on Time

(Lake Charles, LA) I found out yesterday that Norman Carter has been selected to be inducted in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. I take back whatever bad I said about their selection committee. I applaud them. In fact they deserve a standing ovation this morning.

When Coach Carter is inducted next Spring it will be a great day for the people of Taylor County. And it will be a great day for all the girls (and boys) who played for him and were positively influenced by him. And more importantly it will be a great day for Norman and Jane Carter and their family.

I want to thank all of you who read this who made calls or sent emails to the Executive Director of the Hall of Fame. Ed Grisamore led the way with his "Ring the Bell" article he wrote in the Macon Telegraph. Some wrote great letters to the editor of the Macon Telegraph that showed up in the paper. Maybe the collective effort got somebody’s attention. Maybe the public outcry had nothing to do with him being chosen this year. It really doesn’t matter.

The only thing that matters is the story of Norman Carter and his incredible accomplishment in high school sports in this state will be forever told in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

One thing is for sure. Norman Carter did not lead this charge. In fact he wouldn’t even talk about it. He has absolutely nothing to prove. The charge was led by the “girls” he so greatly influenced. And it was a core group of them who completed the application in a timely manner and provided the information for him to be considered and ultimately selected.

By the way there were over 200 who applied who met the criteria to be qualified. 36 were left after the first cut. And 8 were chosen.

When I called my wife yesterday afternoon with this news I could tell she teared up. Her response: “This is long overdue.”

Long overdue but right on time.

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about I am republishing a blog I wrote on March 18.

The Time Has Come

Several years ago I visited the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon. Being a huge sports fan, I was very impressed with what I saw there. But when I left I was absolutely flabbergasted and scratching my head and was greatly disappointed. And because of my disappointment I never went back and truthfully never even had the urge to go back.

My flabbergasted state and my disappointment stemmed from the fact that there was not even a mention of the Taylor County Lady Vikings and their legendary coach Norman Carter. For the life of me I cannot understand why Norman Carter has not been inducted in the Georgia Hall of Fame and why his amazing teams from 1967-72 are not even mentioned.

Last night the girls and their coach were honored in the community where it all happened. What happened, by the way, is they won 132 straight basketball games and five straight state championships over a period of 5 years. No basketball team in the state of Georgia has ever done that. Only three other teams in the United States have ever won that many consecutive games. And they are not even mentioned in the Georgia Hall of Fame??

You’ve got to be kidding.

Norman Carter coached basketball in Taylor County for 12 years. About a year into his winning streak he became Superintendent of the Taylor County School System. He asked permission from the School Board to let him continue coaching until he lost. That took a few years.

During the 12 years he coached in Taylor County, he won 7 state championships. I haven’t checked, but I wonder how many coaches in the history of our state have won a state championship in 7 out of 12 starts. His teams won 340 basketball games and lost only 31 during those 12 years. His record speaks for itself.

The selection committee should start with his record. That is enough. But while they are investigating, they should interview at least a few of the girls he coached. To the person, they will say that Norman Carter was one of the greatest influences in their lives. They will say that he taught them much more than basketball. But he taught them life lessons about hard work, how to work together, how to overcome obstacles, how to be prepared for the enemy, how to have priorities and most importantly, how to be a winner when most people don’t want you to win. Or think you can’t.

He even taught his players how to lose and how to come back when you’ve been knocked down. They didn’t have much practice in the how to lose part. But when they finally did lose, that same team came back that same year and won another state championship. And that may be his greatest coaching accomplishment.

In a world where you read almost every day of sports icons having their character questioned because of wrong decisions leaving the kids who look up to them disillusioned, the selection committee in this case should go past just looking at the basketball record and the girls he coached and do a little more investigating.

I suggest they ride out to the Golden Rule in Taylor County and interview some of the girls there. Or better yet, interview a few of the girls who have already been through that program. This oasis for girls who have been “knocked down” because of chemical addiction was founded by Norman and Jane Carter in 1996. There are 45 girls there now and a waiting list much longer than that. Again Norman Carter is coaching and teaching girls the same lessons he taught 35 years ago on the basketball court. He is still teaching lessons about hard work, how to work together, how to overcome obstacles, how to be prepared for the enemy, how to have priorities and most importantly, how to be a winner when most people don’t want you to win. Or think you can’t.

Following is the Mission Statement for the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame:

Georgia Sports Hall of Fame serves to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of sports in Georgia. We honor those who, by their outstanding achievement or service have made lasting contributions to the cause of sports in Georgia, the nation, and the world. Further, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame seeks to maintain the high ideals and traditions of sports as a positive influence on the youth of our state, emphasizing sportsmanship, physical fitness, and leadership that sports teach.

If Norman Carter doesn’t fit that bill, they need to think about changing their mission statement.

The Executive Director for the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is Jacqueline Decell. Her email address is jackied@gshf.org. I think it is time for the people of Taylor County and others who know and appreciate Norman Carter and what he has accomplished through Georgia sports to be heard.

Fill up her inbox. It is time for a full court press. I fully realize that she is not the person who will be making that decision. But I have a feeling she will be a good starting place and will pass the information on to the people who do.

As I was looking around the room last night, his students are not getting younger. And if the crowd who was gathered last night doesn’t lead the charge , it will never happen. The next generation won’t have the luxury of first-hand knowledge of his accomplishments.

We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to Coach Carter. And we owe it to the people of our great state. The story of Norman Carter and his amazing Lady Vikings of Taylor County must be preserved in the history of sports in Georgia.

The time has come.


Anonymous said...

What a day. After you called me last night I dug out an old article that was in the Telegraph years ago with a picture of the team. I carried it to school and shared it with my kindergarten class. I talked to them about a group of girls that became like family to me and a man that changed my life and instilled positive principles in my life. After what I thought was a serious time of sharing one of my students raised his hand and said,"Mrs.Goddard I didn't know you were a movie star too."
Love you

Anonymous said...

I bet it would make a good movie.

Anonymous said...

Aren't kids wonderful!!!

Judy S said...

I was so glad to hear this also. I am a little tired of sending e-mails to the lady up there in Macon. I don't know how many I sent, but I'm sure that she is glad too not be hearing from me anymore. I didn't play for Norman, but I know what a wonderful man he is. He and Jane have done so much for so many.
His record speaks for itself.

jmoncrief reynolds said...

I would like to give Coach Carter a long overdue CONGRADULATIONS also a CONGRADULATIONS to the many ladies that played for him and the others he has and still influenced/influences..
You deserve it Coach!