By Bill Plott AHSAA Historian Ann Schilling’s journey to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame started at the hands of a master. The Class of 2018 inductee played under the renowned Coach Becky Dickinson at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. Coach Dickinson was in the very first class of inductees in 1991. In a letter nominating Schilling to the Hall of Fame, Coach Dickinson wrote: “Before her high school tenure with me even began, Ann fell during summer team camp and broke her right arm. Other athletes might have let that discourage them, but not Ann. She stayed at summer camp and continued to work out. She came to every volleyball practice and game, taking statistics and stepping in wherever she could. She even taught herself to shoot a basketball left-handed. “She had her silly moments, too. When she was still a freshman, our basketball team played an area championship, and I watched as my starting players fouled out one by one, clearing my bench until I was left with Ann. When I put her in the game, I called a time-out and shared the game plan with my players. We were ahead and time was running out. They were to maintain possession of the ball. We didn’t need any baskets, so they weren’t to shoot. “Ann Stepped out onto the court and received the ball out in Timbuctoo. She didn’t’ dribble. She didn’t pass. She didn’t’ fake her opponent. No, that 14-year-old kid launched the ball toward our goal, and – swoosh! – made it. After the game, I told her had her ill-advised shot missed, she would never have seen playing time on one of my teams again. “But she hadn’t missed. And perhaps she had learned something about strategy, something that came in handy for her as she played at Auburn or as she began her own coaching career at Bayside Academy.” A native of Mobile, Schilling went from McGill-Toolen to Auburn University where she played basketball for four years, walking on and earning a scholarship by her sophomore year. She stayed a fifth year at Auburn to play volleyball when the program was reinstated. With college-level varsity experience in basketball and volleyball under her belt, she accepted the position of physical education teacher, basketball and volleyball coach at Bayside Academy in 1987. It was a perfect union. Schilling is now in her 31 st season of teaching and coaching at Bayside. That career, by the numbers, includes the following: · 23 state volleyball championships, four runners-up · 16 consecutive state champions 2002-2017, an Alabama record and second in the nation, and 19 in 20 years since 1998 · More than 1,400 wins, first among state active coaches and second in the state all-time · 6 Mobile Press Register Super 12 Coach of the Year awards · 5 Birmingham News Coach of the Year awards · 7 selections as AHSAA all-star coach · National Federation of High Schools Volleyball Coach of the Year award in 2010 Additionally, Schilling has received two John L. Finley Awards for Superb Achievement as a coach and an R. L. Lindsay Service Award for club volleyball. She is founder and director of the Eastern Shore Volleyball Club. She was elected to the Bayside Academy Hall of Fame in 2004 and to the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. Nancy Shoquist, varsity volleyball coach at Mary G. Montgomery High School and a Hall of Fame inductee in 2014, wrote of her long association and friendship with Schilling: “I truly feel Ann is the smartest high school volleyball coach in Alabama,” she said. “She studies the game, wanting always to learn new ideas and strategies which will give her an advantage. Her career record, state championships and state tournament appearances speak loads of her success. “She will continue to be successful in volleyball because of the work ethic, love of her teams and lover of the game.” Bayside Head of School Michael Papa spoke to the intangibles in Schilling’s career. “Ann plays a huge role in the character development of the young ladies she coaches,” he said. “She instills good sportsmanship and the importance of teamwork in her players, regardless of the outcome of the game. Ann’s players respect her, and they want to work hard to win under her direction.” Coach Dickinson said she saw Schilling develop and grow into a superb leader. “Looking back at her outstanding career, it may come as a surprise that Ann was not a born leader,” Dickinson said. “During her senior year, the captain of the volleyball team missed one of our tournaments, and I watched as my team floundered, leaderless. A few timeouts later, when I asked Ann and her fellow senior to take charge, I watched her step onto the court and step into her own. After that, nothing Ann did surprised me. “I was not surprised when she started and didn’t stop winning state championships. I was not surprised when Ann’s peers repeatedly recognized her coaching ability by voting her Coach of the Year. I was not surprised that she learned to take relatively unskilled young women and teach them game skills while building their confidence and leadership skills.” And it is no surprise that Ann Schilling is now being inducted into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2018. THURSDAY: Jerome Tate taught his players to be mentally tough.