11 01 GraysCreek1For the third year in a row and the fourth time since 2009, Cumberland County has brought home the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s Exemplary School Award, a measure of the quality of what the NCHSAA calls the total program at the winning school.

The win by Gray’s Creek adds them to a list that includes the last two winners, Terry Sanford and Cape Fear, along with Jack Britt, which captured the award in 2009.

A common thread at all of the schools is something that was started years ago by former Cumberland County Schools student activities director Fred McDaniel and continues today with one of his successors, Vernon Aldridge. That’s a push for all county schools to get their athletic directors and coaches certified by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“I think it helps with the quality of coaching that our young people are going to receive,’’ Aldridge said. “I think the taking of National Federation courses is creating a better coach, which hopefully will create a better experience for our student athletes in Cumberland County.’’

Aldridge said the award does more than measure what a school does on the athletic field. It considers multiple elements, including academic performance.

“It’s exciting to have three schools in three years win this award,’’ Aldridge said. “What I hope it shows is we are providing a quality product, athletically as well as academically, for the students in Cumberland County.’’

Gray’s Creek athletic director Troy Lindsey, who like Aldridge is currently a member of the NCHSAA Board of Directors, feels the award for his school is the byproduct of having an outstanding staff, including both head and assistant coaches.
“Everyone of my head and assistant coaches gets it,’’ Lindsey said. “They get the whole purpose of what interscholastic athletics is about. It’s an extension of the classroom.’’

Lindsey feels Cumberland County has been a consistent winner of the Exemplary School Award because of outstanding leadership over the years at the county level, coupled with the fact the entire school system has embraced the importance of having certified coaches and athletic directors.

“I’ve been an athletic director for 15 years, and for 15 years it’s been the same message,’’ Lindsey said. “You’ve got to do it right and you’ve got to get the certification to stay up to date on things.
“I think we have embraced that as a system before other people have.’’

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