Photo: Gadsden City High School softball coach Shane Sanderson addresses attendees of a meet and greet session on June 14 at the GCHS library. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Gadsden City High School has turned to a former Rebel to kick-start its girls softball program.
Shane Sanderson, who recently retired after six years as an Algebra 1/Pre-Algebra teacher at Emma Sansom Middle School, was hired as GCHS softball coach earlier this month. He addressed players, parents and local media at a meet and greet session on June 14 at the GCHS library.
In his nine seasons as a high school softball head coach, Sanderson guided every one of his teams to a winning season and a berth in the state playoffs, with seven of those squads making the state tournament in Montgomery. Sanderson won two state titles in eight years as head softball coach at Pleasant Valley High. He was named county coach of the year seven times and state coach of the year twice. Sanderson, who had a career high school record of 373-157, takes over for Corbin Holland, who resigned this past spring.
“I just finished 25 years of teaching, and I’m really glad to be here,” said Sanderson. “I’ve coached some great ball teams and I’ve had some great ball players over the years, and I’m ready to get organized and get started. We don’t play again until late February, so we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then.”
Sanderson pointed out that not one of the school’s previous 12 softball teams have advanced past the area tournament and that it took the Lady Titans seven or eight years to win an area game.
“But we’ve been somewhat competitive lately, and I know that we can become even more competitive,” he said. “Our plan is to go to work and do the best we can with what we’ve got.”
Sanderson shared his three-pronged vision for the GCHS softball program.
“I’m going to require that our kids have a good attitude and effort. If a player already has the first two things, it makes it a whole lot easier on a coaching staff to work on the third part, which is the execution. It takes all three things to be a successful player and a successful person. I’m also going to always tell the truth and never give any of my players a false sense of security.”
In his lone season at Sardis in 2011, Sanderson guided the Lady Lions to a 32-20 record, the program’s first-ever Etowah County Tournament championship, a second-place finish in both the area and regional tournaments and a fifth-place showing at the state tournament. He was named Class 3A Coach of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
Before Sanderson took over the Sardis softball program, the Lady Lion had endured 10 straight losing seasons and a 98-222-1 record in the fast pitch format.
“It was absolutely embarrassing,” said Sanderson. “But I cared about the players and I wanted them to be successful. I told the girls that we were going to accomplish three things – have a winning season, win the county tournament and make the state tournament. With a starting lineup of two juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen, we achieved all of those goals.”
After he left Sardis, Sanderson spent a year teaching in Talladega before he was hired at Emma Sansom Middle.
Sanderson was the head softball coach at Gadsden State in 2015 and 2016 before the school discontinued the program. When he arrived on campus in mid-July of 2014, he had only four players on the roster. Sanderson eventually signed nine more players in time for the 2015 season during which the Lady Cardinals went 14-39.
“That was my only losing record in my career. But to me, it wasn’t a losing season, because we won 14 more games than I thought we would. We lost 12 of those games by one run and another six by two runs, so our girls always battled and never quit. I thought that we really had the program going in the right direction, but unfortunately they decided to shut it down.”
Three of Sanderson’s assistant coaches were in attendance at the meet and greet. Two of them, Bethany Chamblee and Payton Golden, are former Sardis High softball standouts. Chamblee also played under Sanderson at Gadsden State, while Golden played at Snead State. Nicole Everhart, who played softball at Jacksonville High, is the other assistant.
“If you want your kids to be successful in life, you can point to these three young ladies as role models,” said Sanderson. “They excelled both on the field and in the classroom, and they all played college ball. They’ll have a lot to offer your kids.”
The Lady Titans’ Class 7A, Area 7 competition this coming season includes Grissom, Huntsville and Sparkman.
“We’re very excited to have Coach Sanderson here, and his accolades speak for themselves,” said GCHS athletic director Todd Lamberth. “I’ve been here for 12 years with three [years] as athletic director, and I feel that this is our first true softball hire. I think that our program is fixing to reach new heights.”