ARDMORE — Ardmore’s athletic programs enjoyed one of their best years in school history in 2013-14. The football team made the playoffs for the first time in seven years, the baseball team reached its first-ever state championship series and Lee Hodges won the school’s first golf championship.
The person pulling the strings behind all this athletic success was recently honored for all of this and more from the Alabama High School athletic association.
Rusty Bates, Ardmore’s full-time athletic director, was selected by the AHSAA as the 2014 winner of the Making a Difference Award in Class 4A.
The award goes to six individuals across the state who have made an impact as exemplary role models.
Bates has served as Ardmore’s athletic director for the last five years, helping to mold young coaches concerning the areas of sportsmanship, character and integrity.
Bates began his coaching career in 1993 at Calhoun Community College as an assistant softball coach under Myra King. Over the next three seasons the duo would see Calhoun win three state and region championships.
In 1996 Bates returned to his alma mater, West Limestone High School, to coach football, basketball, and softball. At West Limestone he took over a fast-pitch softball program in its infancy and went 98-36 the next four seasons. He was voted The Athens-Limestone Metro Coach of the Year three times.
Four years later, Bates went to Hazel Green High School where he led the softball team from slow-pitch to fast-pitch. Success came quickly with back-to-back county championships in 2003 and 2004 and a trip to the state tournament in 2003. He stepped down as a softball coach with a 321-173 overall softball coaching record.
Bates and his wife, Kristin, have one child, Lauren, who was born premature. The struggle their daughter battled through has given both parents a passion to help organizations such as the Melissa George Foundation, an organization that helped them and is aimed at helping premature infants survive by equipping hospitals with the latest technology.
“Coach Bates and his wife have really gotten our school behind this project each year,” said Principal Tommy Hunter. “They have shown our students that every child matters and that each of us can make a difference.”
Hunter called Bates a sounding board for him and a dear friend for life.