The consensus among Forsyth County athletic directors is that high school sports have never been better.
They have ample evidence to make their case – four state titles (almost five) for Lambert, a 10-win season for West Forsyth football and a state semifinals run by South Forsyth girls soccer. Pinecrest Academy got its first Georgia High School Association playoff team (boys soccer). North Forsyth girls basketball had arguably the most exciting two-round run in the state tournament.
Over the past two weeks, Forsyth County News sports editor Brian Paglia spoke with each high school athletic director about the state of their respective program. Now, they talk about the quality of high school athletics and the biggest issues facing all programs.
What is the state of high school athletics in Forsyth County?
Nathan Turner, North Forsyth: "It’s improved so much over the last 10 years. ... Look at the state championships won in the last five years. It’s exciting times to see that many. ... If you really want to see where your program is, look at the number of the region championships won in Forsyth County. We’re very competitive."
Mike Woodard, Forsyth Central: It is truly impressive to see an entire county be so "in love" with their athletic teams which spills over for their pride for the entire school system. Everyone is provided with the necessary tools to be successful."
Drew Ferrer, Lambert: "I think it’s at a time where it’s starting to swing up. I think we’re a really great destination for kids looking to move into an area where they’re not only getting a fair shake in athletics, but academically it’s going to be a total package for college."
Keith Gravitt, South Forsyth: "I’m a native of Forsyth County and Cumming. I look at what our schools do and I’m excited about where Forsyth is and where it’s going. We’re competing against the best. The playing field’s getting more and more level from where we might have been 10-15 years ago."
Brett Phipps, West Forsyth: "I’ve been in the county since 2001. I think competitively it’s as strong as it’s been. When you’ve got a school like Lambert hit the ground running it forces everyone to step up their game."
What are some of the biggest issues facing high school athletic programs?
Tom Palmer, Pinecrest Academy: "The main thing ... is the protection of our athletes because of sensitivities to concussions. We have to be really mindful. The day and age of "getting your bell rung," that cannot be accepted anymore."
Woodard, Central: "Everyone has economic issues now but we all must be great stewards of our athletic funds. We have to make sure we are getting the most we possibly can out of every penny."
Ferrer, Lambert: "Obviously, in any program, funding is always something we strive to improve on. I wouldn’t say it’s an issue, but of course it’s always a challenge. Teams and booster clubs have to raise funds to be successful. That’s something always at the forefront"
Turner, North: "We’re still growing. Growth is a good thing. You have to be prepared for growth, because it brings expenditures. You’ve got to prepare, budget for that. "
Gravitt, South: "I think time. There’s a lot of pressure on our student athletes today with academic challenges in the classroom and then w hat’s asked of them in the field of competition. Coaches have to manage their time as well as they can with student athletes. We don’t want to forget about them having the best experience possible."
Phipps, West: "Certainly concussion and heat-related illness policies coming out of the GHSA are always going to be big things, especially concussions because they’re so hard to detect. ... [Forsyth County Schools athletic director] Todd Shirley has done a good job getting us ready for that. We’re already being proactive."