Jocks transformed: teachers relive sports glory days

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Jocks transformed: teachers relive sports glory days

CENTER STAGE: Terra Avery, (center-top row) was the captain of both her JV and varsity cheerleading teams in high school.

CENTER STAGE: Terra Avery, (center-top row) was the captain of both her JV and varsity cheerleading teams in high school.

CENTER STAGE: Terra Avery, (center-top row) was the captain of both her JV and varsity cheerleading teams in high school.

CENTER STAGE: Terra Avery, (center-top row) was the captain of both her JV and varsity cheerleading teams in high school.

The Southerner

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John Brandhorst, the art director at Grady, described windsurfing at dawn as a perfect experience.

“The waves were high, the sun had just come up, and I was completely alone. I was at one with the planet.”

Grady is brimming with teachers like Brandhorst have sporting careers in their past; however, some of them are unwilling to divulge memories of their athletic days. There are some teachers, however, that carry with them, many fond memories and hilarious sporting moments.

Brandhorst said he played many sports in his youth, but the one that made the greatest impact was windsurfing.  Growing up in a “beach town” off Lake Michigan, Brandhorst and his friends spent the warm months on the coast and the winter months in the mountains. During the summer, Brandhorst skateboarded, surfed, swam and windsurfed.  Though he competed in many sports, windsurfing was a sport he did for fun.

“Competition was not the reason I got into it,” Brandhorst said. “Windsurfing was sort of my escape.”

Graduation coach Brandi Sabb played basketball at Jones High School in Orlando, Fla., but ended up having to escape it.

“I joined the team because my best friend but also because I had a secret crush on Michael Jordan,” Sabb said.  “I thought that somehow, if I played basketball, I’d meet him.”

Sabb said she started out her high school basketball season very well.

“My very first game, I started and I scored 27 points!” Sabb said. “It was like an out-of-body experience: I was on fire.  But then, during the next game I scored 14 points, the next game, three points, and then the rest of my two seasons, I scored absolutely zero points.”

Sabb ended up quitting basketball to be a majorette her junior year.

“I just wasn’t into it anymore,” Sabb said.

Many teachers like Sabb, did not continue playing their sport for many reasons, but one teacher who did was literature teacher Terra Avery. Avery was a cheerleader during all four of her years at Woodland High School in Birmingham, Ala.

“I was really shy; cheering brought out another part of me,” Avery said. “It was fun, competitive, and helped show my leadership.” Avery recalls many great experiences with the team; however, she remembers spooky ones as well.

Avery said that when her team went to a summer camp at Sanford University during her senior year, they met a lot of other cheerleaders from other parts of the country.

“This one group of white cheerleaders tricked us into doing a seance,” Avery said. “We called back this boy from our high school that had just died, and it worked!  After we heard him, we prayed all day long.  The girl who heard him was my roommate, and let’s just say I slept with one eye open.”

Keeping his eyes open, was all that design teacher, Paul Nicolson, could do while playing on the Grady soccer team during the 1980s. Nicolson said he was the player the coach put into the game for short periods in order to “wreak havoc.”

Nicolson said that during one particular one game, he was running down the field, dodging attempts from the big guys to steal the ball, only to end up facing an exceptionally large player.

“He stuck his leg out, and it was like I had hit a brick wall,” Nicolson said. “The ball stopped, and my body went flying.”

Science teacher Nikolai Curtis, said that playing sports was one of the only things he enjoyed in high school, partly because he disliked Whitefield, N.H., the town he lived in as a teenager.

“There are more kids at Grady than in my town.” Curtis said. “It’s not an exaggeration.”

Curtis played baseball as a way to find his place in the small community.

“One time we played on a field that was right next to a paper mill, and the smell was awful,” Curtis said. “This kid was standing in the outfield and a cloud of smog from the paper mill just covered him, when the cloud disappeared, he ran to the side and threw up because the smell had been so awful.”

Curtis said that while the player was puking his guts out, everyone else on the field was laughing hysterically. Curtis said funny moments like these were more memorable than the games themselves.

As students at Grady make their own athletic histories, they seldom consider that their coaches, teachers and administrators may have had similar experiences. Though they may seem older and more mature, they were once high school students too, but some teachers like Avery advise you to “hold on” to your sports because you’ll never be in high school again.

“I was in the best shape of my life in high school,” Avery said. “Maybe if I tried, I could get it back.”


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