By Chad Dixon
Smiths Station Athletic Director Sherry Paysinger has dedicated her time and efforts to Smiths Station athletics for more than 30 years. On June 26, she notified the Smiths Station administration that she would be retiring from her position.
“It’s bittersweet for me. I’ve had a really good ride, but I think it is time to spend more time with my family,” Paysinger said.
The North Alabama native came to Smiths Station in 1993 to coach softball and assist with the girls’ basketball team. She had just completed her first year teaching at Russell County High School.
“Mr. (John) Painter called me and offered me the job. I knew it was a great opportunity. I have loved the school and the community ever since,” Paysinger added.
After coaching for three years, Paysinger was named the Assistant Athletic Director and held hold that position until 2014 when she accepted the Athletic Director position after Mark Rose left Smiths Station to coach football at North Jackson.
“Coach Sherry Paysinger was not only the Athletic Director of Smiths Station, she was a friend. She went above and beyond to show respect and love to everyone she came across. She is one of the hardest working people I have ever met and she worked tirelessly to make Smiths Station Athletics be the best it could be. She will be missed, however, I hope she enjoys retirement. She deserves it,” said Smiths Station Mayor F. L. (Bubba) Copeland.
Paysinger will be remembered as a pioneer. She was the first female athletic director in Class 7A in the state of Alabama. During her time at Smiths Station, the baseball team won the first Class 7A baseball title, the football team played in the quarter-finals of the state tournament (2013), Track and Cross Country combined for two state titles and the softball program finished third in the state tournament this past spring.
“The past spring was probably the highlight of my time at Smiths Station. The softball team had a third place finish, we had 29 players sign scholarships, the track team had several All Bi-city players, each soccer team won an area title and baseball made it to the playoffs,” Paysinger said.
For several years, Paysinger was the primary caretaker of the fields and facilities for the athletic programs. The most personal experience of her tenure was the response from the community after the January 2017 tornado destroyed parts of the softball and baseball fields.
“The support we received from the community is why I love it here. Seeing the destruction of the fields was really heartbreaking for me. We had spent so much time in making what is now the softball field. We used to have to play our games at CVCC. I remember spending hours picking up rocks after we practiced just to keep it playable early on. But we had an outpouring of help from the community to help us,” Paysinger added.
She had a great relationship with many of the coaches at Smiths Station who appreciate her dedication to their programs.
“I had mixed feelings when Coach Paysinger called me to inform me she was retiring. They were mixed because I am happy that she will now be able to spend more time with her family but saddened because she has always been there for me and the girls when it came to issues concerning the women’s’ soccer program. (She) was always supportive of me and allowed me to run the women’s soccer program as best as I saw fit. Under her leadership, we have transformed the women’s program into one of the better soccer programs in east Alabama. I want her to know, as I expressed on the phone the other day, how thankful I am of her allowing me to coach the sport I love at the school that I love. It has been a great four years with her leading the athletic program at SSHS. We can only hope that her successor is as passionate about SSHS athletics as she was,” said Smiths Station Women’s Varsity Head Coach Dennis Jones.
Paysinger is very appreciative of the Lee County Board of Education for giving her a chance.
“Lee County put a lot of faith in me. I think they saw my work ethic over the years and knew I cared about the school and the community,” she said.