High school tennis matches aren’t always short and thrilling, trending more toward lengthy with spaced out moments of excitement in many cases.
That atmosphere lends itself to plenty of conversation time outside of the fences that surround the courts. Coaches, parents and team members chat to pass the time, pausing only briefly for cheers before returning to their talks.
I covered a great number of those matches at the Stone Mountain Tennis Center in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a young sports writer, and the down time allowed me to get to know then-Brookwood tennis coach Debbie Dees a little better.
Longer than our usual five-minute, on-deadline interviews after basketball games (Dees also was the head girls basketball coach for the Broncos back then), it gave us a chance to talk in more detail about topics other than basketball. I remember Dees saying how she wanted to go into school administration, which is neat to look back on now.
Dees, Brookwood’s principal since 2007, was named last week as an assistant superintendent for Gwinnett County Public Schools. It was a nice career transition for Dees, as it was for another newly appointed assistant superintendent, Ed Shaddix.
I first met Shaddix when he was an assistant football coach at Shiloh, where he also played football in the late 1980s. He followed the same coaching and teaching path to administration as Dees, first serving as Shiloh’s athletic director and an assistant principal at Dacula, and then becoming North Gwinnett’s principal, a job he’s held since 2008.
I always enjoy seeing educators with athletic ties, particularly those I know personally, rise to leadership positions. They didn’t earn these promotions because they were coaches, but the lessons they learned through sports certainly play a big part in their makeup.
Leaders like Dees and Shaddix are perfect examples of so many in Gwinnett — like GCPS’ 2012-13 teacher of the year and then Norcross basketball coach, Jay Nebel — who have achieved that balance between academics and athletics. They spent long hours working with and teaching lessons to high school athletes, while not losing focus on the importance of the classroom.
Dees won a bunch of basketball games and three state titles as Brookwood’s tennis coach, but she also won the state principal of the year award in 2011. She’s maintained a high level of excellence in all areas at Brookwood, where she has worked for nearly 18 years, much like Shaddix has done at North.
Both will leave major voids at their current schools, but I’m happy for their promotions. They’ve earned it, both on and off the playing field.
Will Hammock can be reached via email at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com.