FORT PAYNE — Editor’s note: This is the ninth installment in a question-and-answer series with DeKalb County coaches, taking a look at their playing journeys and their coaching experiences. In Part 9, The Times-Journal interviewed Fort Payne cross country coach Ashley Jackson. She has served as a head coach for the school’s cross country and track and field programs.
Q: How long have you been in coaching both as a head coach and as an assistant coach?
A: Ten years. I was a volunteer for one year and for nine years I’ve either been an assistant or a head coach.
Q:What led you to coaching?
A: Having kids and knowing what sports did for me. I wanted to get into coaching at Fort Payne where I knew my kids were going to go to school. If they’re going to be out there, then I might as well be out there helping. Coaching your own kid is the hardest thing. Coaching is great, but nobody realizes how hard coaching is until you do coach your own child. ...I want my athletes to know that I’m that constant support they’ll have, even if I’m not the head coach.
Q: What sports did you play growing up?
A: I played volleyball, basketball, indoor track, outdoor track and soccer. My first love was soccer. I was very successful at track with coach (C.M.) Sanford; he was my coach. In soccer, we won the state championship several years in a row when I played. Track was second for me. Back then, coach Sanford made you run cross country [laughing]. I hated it but I was glad I did it, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been on the state championship cross country team in 1991. Everything happens for a reason. With soccer being my first love, I actually thought that was what I was going to be coaching when I started working at Fort Payne. I thought (principal Brian Jett) was wanting me to be the soccer coach, but everything changed and I ended up being the track coach and it’s been great since.
Q: Who are the coaches who have most impacted the way you instruct your athletes?
A: Definitely coach Sanford. Coach Sanford kept in touch with me and he still keeps in touch with all of his athletes. ...He’s done so much for the track program at Fort Payne; it’s unbelievable. He stepped up and did what he has for the DeKalb County Sports Hall of Fame. In three years, the Hall of Fame will be what it should be. Those athletes deserve that recognition and he’s going to do the job it takes for those athletes to be recognized.