She Had a Plan: Sandy Hunter Said She Knew Coaching Was Her Calling
By Bran Strickland
Star Sports Writer
Reprinted here in its entirety.
|Sandy Hunter instructs a group of softball players
while coaching at Pleasant Valley. Hunter won 13 state championships in three
different sports in her career. Photo: Anniston Star file photo
Some people spend their entire life looking for what it is they were born to do.
Some never found it.
Sandy Hunter, however, said she knew it almost from the second she walked on
the campus of Jacksonville State University.
“When you had to write down your major, I think I wrote down pre-med or
physical therapy,” she said. “But that lasted very briefly, very briefly.
“I just wanted to play. I loved it. People told me not to go into teaching
and coaching because you wouldn't find a job. But I said that's what I wanted to
do, I'm going to do it and something will work out. And it worked out.”
Working out is an understatement.
Hunter took her life of coaching and helped mold women's sports at Pleasant
Valley into a powerhouse that is known all around the state. Of her 13 state
championships in track, softball and volleyball, 12 came with the Lady Raiders.
In honor of her career, Hunter will join five others Saturday night as the
third class of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame.
Hunter, in typical form, downplayed her involvement in that success.
“I don't think I did anything special,” Hunter said. “I just coached and had
“I really think I was the luckiest one, because I got to be around so many
good kids, good parents, Mr. Wigley. I used to say at Pleasant Valley we had so
much fun, that, 'Man, am I getting paid to do this?'”
After graduating from Jacksonville State, Hunter had two short stints in
coaching before going to Pleasant Valley. She coached at Ohatchee for one season
and then returned to her alma mater, Weaver, where she won her first state
championship with the girls track team.
In 1982, she then went to the then newly opened Pleasant Valley, where she
remained for 20 years.
Two years later in 1984, Hunter captured the first of her five volleyball
If her success on the statewide stage didn't make the name of Sandy Hunter a
big one in women's sports, her work off the playing field did. She was
instrumental in helping to establish the Alabama High School Athletic
Association state softball tournament.
That work came to fruition when the first state softball tournament was
played in 1986; Hunter's Lady Raiders won that tournament.
Two years later, Hunter and her players went on a string of five consecutive
state championships, with the impressive run ending in 1993.
Hunter's Pleasant Valley teams were 798-160 in volleyball and 546-93 in
softball. In Calhoun County competition, her teams won 10 county volleyball
tournaments and 10 county softball tournaments. She was Calhoun County Coach of
the Year nine times in softball and five times in volleyball.
Hunter remains connected with high school sports (aside from going to games)
with the first Sandy Hunter Volleyball camp that was recently held this year at
the Jacksonville Recreation Center.
Without the opportunity to play sports in high school — only track was
offered — and aside from playing with her brothers, Hunter wasn't involved in
organized sports until she went to college. At Jacksonville State, she played
volleyball, basketball and tennis.
Without much time in sports, Hunter gives all of the credit for her coaching
success to the Man upstairs.
“The good Lord blessed me with the ability to get the girls out, motivate
them, and maybe say the right thing at the right time,” she said. “Not that I
didn't say the wrong thing sometimes.
“It had to come from him. He put me here, and I feel like it's what I was
supposed to be doing all these years.”
About Bran Strickland
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Anniston Star.
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