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22 June 2007
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 fun.

“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 state championships.

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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