The National High School Spirit of Sport Award was created by the federation to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.
Hamilton, who has served three years as football coach at Paulding County High, has taken a struggling program and has increased its win total each year. The team has shown steady improvement in several statistical categories and the program’s future appears very bright.
However, Hamilton’s greatest contribution to the school’s football program might be “The Player of the Day” program that he implemented. Each week, Hamilton selects a different special needs student at the school and presents that student a game jersey to wear that day. The student then accompanies the team to the pregame meal, is assigned a buddy to stay with while game preparation goes on, participates in pregame stretching and warm-up, runs through the tunnel and smoke with the team, and is then on the sideline with the team for the duration of the game.
Through this program, Hamilton provides special needs students the opportunity to be part of the football team – an opportunity they otherwise would never get due to their disabilities. The players on the team have embraced the program and make “The Player of the Day” comfortable and welcome as part of the team.
The federation divides the nation into eight geographical sections. The states in Section 3 are Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Nominations for this award were generated through the federation’s member state associations, including the Georgia High School Association, and reviewed by the federation’s Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members.
While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the federation’s summer meeting in Boston, Mass., the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.
The National Federation of State High School Associations, based in Indianapolis, Ind., is the national leadership organization for high school sports and fine arts activities. Since 1920, the group has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and fine arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. For more information, visit www.nfhs.org.