The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

NFHS & AHSAA celebrating return to play during National High School Activities Month

(NFHS, AHSAA/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused everyone to hit the pause button on life. During the stoppage and forced time away from routines, many people have come to appreciate the important things in life – family, friends and faith among others.

Still, the loss of some routines and regular activities hurt worse than others, namely last spring when high school sports and performing arts were shut down. Millions of students, coaches, parents and fans quickly began to realize the privilege of involvement in these education-based programs in schools.

Now, slowly but surely, high school sports and performing arts are on their way back into schools in Alabama and across the country. While things are different – with social distancing, masks and hygiene protocols in place – there is a resounding feeling of thankfulness that some degree of normalcy is returning.


As a result, this year’s celebration of National High School Activities Month will be like none other in the 40-year history of the event. Since 1980, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and its member state associations have promoted the values of high school activity programs during the month of October, but this year will be extra special.

Kicking off the month-long focus October 4-10 is National Sportsmanship, Fan Appreciation and Public-Address Announcers Week.

Hopefully, one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that parents and other fans are more grateful for any opportunity to attend contests this year and positively support student participants. Being a good fan also involves supporting participants by social distancing and wearing a mask. Attending a high school contest is even more of a privilege, and players, coaches and officials need positive and encouraging support.

The week of October 11-17 is National Performing Arts Activities and Local State High School Associations Week.

More than four million high school students are involved in speech, debate, music, band and theatre activities each year. And the results of an aerosol study conducted by the NFHS and 125 other organizations show that if schools are in session, these activities can be safely conducted by implementing a mitigation strategy focused on Masks-Distance-Time-Air Flow-Hygiene.

Competing on the debate team or playing in the marching band or acting on stage as a part of the theatre team help students develop critical-thinking skills. They also learn to be better communicators and tend to be good listeners – qualities that are essential for success in life and in their chosen careers.

This week is also set aside to recognize the 51 NFHS member state associations, which have been working overtime for the past seven months with state government, health and education leaders to outline a safe return to activities.

The week of October 18-24 is National Coaches, Advisors, Officials and Sponsors Week.

High school coaches are playing even larger roles this year in connecting with their athletes – whether that connection is virtual or in-person. In some situations, a coach may be the most significant mentor in a student-athlete’s life, so keeping that relationship intact is paramount.

Being extremely proud of our member schools for getting us to this point is an understatement of how we feel. Starting in March, the AHSAA began a journey that would present major challenges that schools have never had to face before. With the health and safety of our students at the forefront, the AHSAA Central Board of Control, the AHSAA Medical Advisory Committee, our school superintendents, principals, administrators, teachers, coaches and contest officials rose to that challenge and have been providing opportunities and memories for thousands of our student-athletes just as they have always done in years past.

The nationwide shortage of officials has been exacerbated by the pandemic with some officials deciding not to return. To help with this situation, the NFHS is continuing its #BecomeAnOfficial campaign. Individuals can get started on a career in officiating by clicking on the following link:

The week of October 25-31 is National Community Service/Youth Awareness Week. Schools across the country need financial support from communities due to loss of revenue from the pandemic.

Whether as a participant, parent, coach, official, teacher, administrator, community supporter or general fan, millions are invested in the greatest education-based programs in the country – high school sports and performing arts. In Alabama, and throughout the rest of our nation, we encourage support of these programs more than ever this year during National High School Activities Month.

More information on National High School Activities Month is available on the NFHS website at

Steve Savarese has served as the executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association since 2007, and he is also the president-elect of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Dr. Karissa Niehoff has served as executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations since August 2018 and previously spent seven years as executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

and 12 months ago

High school football playoffs: A community happening


Many people would agree that their years in high school were some of the best years of their lives – particularly those individuals who were members of a sports team or participated in other activities such as the marching band or debate team.

In many cases, team members become lifelong friends. Team reunions are held from time to time as teammates return to remember the relationships, which ultimately mean much, much more than the outcome of games or events they had participating in high school activities. Quite often, reunions for sports teams are staged during the highlight of each sports season during the state playoffs.

And as the calendar turns to November, there is nothing like the excitement of high school football playoffs in cities and communities across Alabama and throughout the nation every Friday night.


While each team will be trying to advance to the state championship, the outcome of the games is only a part of the experience for those individuals in attendance.

Why? Because the people in the stands at high school football playoffs are moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, neighbors down the street, fellow students, and longtime residents of the community. People in the bleachers know the players on the field. Win or lose, their support and love is always there.

There is no tradition in sports with the history of high school football. There are 30 rivalry games (60 high schools) that started before 1900 and continue today, the longest of which is Connecticut’s New London High School vs. Norwich Free Academy, which have been playing annually since 1875.

In Alabama, the first game confirmed was in 1892 – when the Alabama School for the Deaf played the Anniston Military Institute and tied 0-0. By the time the AHSAA formed in 1921, more than 100 high schools in Alabama were playing football. Guntersville and Albertville recently completed their 105th meeting, dating back to 1914. Albertville’s Aggies won 24-21 in a series that now stands at 52-47-6 in Guntersville’s favor. Clarke County also has two ongoing series that have reached 104 games – county rivals Jackson and Thomasville.

In Michigan, Battle Creek Central and Kalamazoo Central have been playing since 1896. In Massachusetts, the Wellesley-Needham Heights rivalry dates to 1882. And in Colorado, Pueblo Central and Pueblo Centennial have been matched since 1892.

Although there are more options for entertainment on a Friday night than ever before, there is still nothing to match high school football playoffs in the fall. With all the people attending games of the 14,247 high schools that play football, expect more than 10 million fans each Friday night – easily the No. 1 fan base in the country.

As you attend high school football playoff games this year in Alabama, remember that the players, coaches and game officials deserve your utmost support, encouragement and respect. While advancing in the playoffs is the desire of each team, the ultimate objective of high school sports and activities is to have fun and enjoy these special years.

We urge you to continue to support the high school teams in your community!

Karissa Niehoff is the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations

Steve Savarese is the executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association

The Alabama High School Athletic Association, founded in 1921, is a private agency organized by its member schools to control and promote their athletic programs. The purpose of the AHSAA is to regulate, coordinate and promote the interscholastic athletic programs among its member schools, which include public, private and parochial institutions.

Parents and adult fans: The biggest challenge facing high school sports today

(AHSAA/Contributed, YHN)

Inappropriate adult behavior at high school athletic events in Alabama is a growing concern.

When more than 2,000 high school athletic directors were asked in a recent national survey what they like least about their job, 62.3% said it was “dealing with aggressive parents and adult fans.”

The men and women who wear the black and white stripes agree. In fact, almost 80% of officials quit after the first two years on the job because of the actions of unruly fans. As a result, there is a growing shortage of high school officials here in Alabama, and in some sports like wrestling, swimming, and track and field, the shortage is severe. Contests cannot be played without officials. As a result, we need to do everything we can to keep good officials officiating and to make the sporting event a positive experience for all.

If you are a parent or adult fan attending a high school athletic event this fall, you can help by following these six guidelines:


1. Be the responsible one. You are the adult whom others model behavior after. Your behavior should not be a negative reflection or impression on your family or school. Make them both proud by being the model of good sportsmanship.

2. Parents should not live their lives vicariously through their children. High school sports are educational athletic opportunities for the student-athletes. Your family’s reputation is not determined by how well your children perform on the field of play.

3. Let your children talk to the coach instead of you doing it for them. High school athletes learn how to become more confident, independent and capable through open communication with their coaches. Let your children discuss concerns with their coaches, and you be their supportive listener when they share the discussion with you.

4. Be supportive. No matter how much you disagree with the coach’s decision or official’s call, avoid coaching or officiating from the sidelines. Your role is to be a responsible, supportive parent — not a coach or official.

5. Remember, participating in a high school sport is not about getting a college scholarship. According to the NCAA, less than 3% of all high school athletes are awarded an athletic scholarship to participate at the next level, and the total value of the scholarship is only about $18,000. Playing sports in high school should focus on the experience and life lessons that are learned. If a scholarship is offered as the result, that’s great. If not, it’s still great because the child has been a part of a team and has some great memories that are priceless.

6. Make sure your children know you love watching them play. Do not critique your child’s performance during the car ride home. Participating in high school sports is about character development, learning and having fun — not winning and losing. Don’t waste important time discussing things you can do nothing about. Focus on making memories. The time your child is a high school athlete is short. Enjoy the moment.

Purchasing a ticket to a high school athletic event does not give anyone the right to be disrespectful or verbally abusive. Cheer loud and be proud but be responsible and respectful. The future of high school athletics depends upon how players, coaches and officials are treated by the fans and parents. Be the example you want your children to be.

Karissa Niehoff is the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations and Steve Savarese is the executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA).