The departure of now former GMC Prep athletic director/head football coach Steven Simpson has caused the school to shuffle its coaching deck.
With the announcement that Lee Coleman would be moving over from the GMC junior college staff to head up varsity football, the athletic director position remained open. The school announced last week that Allen Simmons, who had been serving as head softball coach, has been named as the new GMC Prep AD and former assistant coach Jennifer Deason will now lead the school’s varsity softball program.
Simmons just finished up his ninth school year at GMC Prep, and his 10th will be spent as the head of the school’s athletic department. The position is obviously undergoing a change from previous years when Simpson held it, as he was both AD and head varsity football coach whereas Simmons has been asked to step back from his head softball coaching duties in order to maintain a presence at all GMC Prep athletics, although that’s something Simpson was able to do despite juggling the two demanding jobs.
“I’m extremely excited and humbled that they are allowing me to take on this new position,” Simmons told The Union-Recorder by phone Friday. “I want to see GMC keep the success we’ve had in our athletic programs and hopefully see them excel even more.”
GMC athletics did experience a great deal of success this past school year, earning state championships in boys cross country (third in a row) and soccer, area championships in both boys and girls soccer, and region championship game berths in both boys and girls basketball.
All told, Simmons has been with the GMC Prep softball program for the last seven years, four as an assistant and the last three as head. He says he’ll “absolutely” miss his summers and early falls spent coaching girls on the softball diamond.
“I’ve built some good relationships with those girls and their families,” he said. “It’s tough, but it’s the right move not only for myself but for the school to succeed in softball and all other programs. Although I’m going to miss softball and the girls, I am excited to hand the team over to Coach Deason and I look forward to her continuing the success of GMC softball.”
The softball head coach shuffle comes at an interesting point in time. GMC Prep softball is now four years removed from its last state championship, its second of back-to-back titles (2014 and 2015). The final remnants of that latest state championship graduated last month, so it’s almost like the program is starting with a clean slate under Coach Deason.
“The softball program has been a very successful one for a long time, so I'm very honored to be able to step in and hopefully continue that success,” she said. “It’s a big responsibility and there are big shoes to fill, but I hope to do my very best and keep the program in stride.”
Deason is approaching her fourth school year at GMC Prep where she serves as sixth grade P.E. teacher in addition to various other coaching duties, which include having been a member of the varsity coaching staff along with Simmons and Jeff Ward. Simmons pointed out that he always discussed decisions with his assistants, forming a sort of coaches council rather than a head with assistants, and Deason says that model will continue.
“It’s not necessarily about the title because it’s a group effort,” she said. “I think our coaching staff is one of the best around, so that type of coaching style will continue. Girls sports can be difficult at times, so it takes more than one person to get the program going in the right direction and keep it as successful as it has been for so many years. It’s only going to work if we all work together, which I think is why it has been so successful.”
Coach Ward will remain on the staff with Deason, and the two will be joined by a new community coach, Meagan Pearson, who is a deputy with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office.
“She’s going to bring a lot to the program,” Deason said.
GHSA sanctioned softball practice usually begins at the end of July or the beginning of August each year, but programs are allowed to hold voluntary practices and workouts since the season normally begins just a few short days after sanctioned practice starts. Deason said her girls are working hard already and participation numbers are good. They’ll need that hard work if the team is going to get back to Georgia high school softball’s biggest stage — the annual state championship which is held in Columbus.
“This group of girls is very talented,” Deason said. “We’re young, but I don’t underestimate their goals. I think that we have the same standards that they’ve always had, to have a successful season and play late into October and make our way back to Columbus.”