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Savarese: Decisions will decide for you

Steve Savarese looked around the Carl Morgan Convention Center on Tuesday night and saw something he said he has been missing — smiling young faces.

Savarese, executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, spoke to almost 200 people during the 2008-2009 Selma City Schools Athletic Banquet. Having been a high school coach, Savarese said what he misses most with his job as the state’s top athletic director is the contact with the athletes.

During the three-hour banquet — the first time the Selma high and middle school awards were presented at the same time, Savarese took the opportunity to praise the coaches and to speak to the athletes.

“These coaches make a difference in every child’s life,” said Savarese, who has been the AHSAA’s fourth executive director for the past four years. “These are the best doctors in the world because they heal people every day.”

Looking at the students who received the more than 90 awards, he said, “Decisions you make today are going to make you. … If you believe you can, you will.”

Some things are more crucial than athletics, Savarese said.

“Lifting 250-300 pounds in practice is not more important than lifting an 8-ounce book,” he said. “Don’t think that athletics will take you where you want to be.”

Savarese also used former high school students Terrell Owens and Patrick White, who signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Savarese replaced Dan Washburn, who was the third full-time executive director, in July 2007. Wasburn had served since 1991, after the retirement of Herman L. “Bubba” Scott, who had served since 1966. The late Cliff Harper became the first AHSAA head in 1948, with the establishment of a state office in Montgomery. Before that, Sellers Stough of Birmingham had served as director on a part-time basis.

Among the highlights of the banquet was naming Auburn Montgomery basketball signee Kamesha Strong as the girls basketball’s most valuable player. Strong, a point guard who is valedictorian, also received the school’s overall academic girls award.

“This is the first time since 1994 that I have given an MVP award,” said Selma girls basketball coach Anthony Harris. “Wherever Selma goes this year, it was because of this girl.”