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    June 27--  The Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA) presented one of its most prestigious awards to long-time referee Alan Smith of Vidalia at its 81st Annual Awards Ceremony in Dalton.

Smith received the Sam Burke Award in recognition of his “continuing interest in the youth of the nation” and “devotion of his time and talent to preserve, strengthen, and promote high school athletics in Georgia.” Sam Burke served as director of the Georgia High School Association for 30 years, contributing greatly to amateur sports in the state and nation during that time.

alansmithawardCoach John Page, GACA President (L) with Alan Smith.

    Charlton County Athletic Director Jesse Crews presented the award and thanked Smith for the “time, energy, integrity, and heart” he has “poured into the support of high school athletics.”

     Smith recently completed his fiftieth year as a basketball referee. He worked regular-season, post-season, and championship games for the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) and the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) many of those years. He also has conducted basketball camps that bring together high school athletes, coaches, and officials and has acted as a clinician as well as director of those camps. He has worked as a GHSA district coordinator of officials in softball, baseball, football, and basketball.

     As an athlete at Vidalia High School in the 1960s, Smith played basketball, baseball, and football. He worked for the Vidalia Recreation Department under veteran director Ed Smith, coaching youth sports and teaching swimming and water-safety courses for lifeguards before attending Georgia Southern College.

     Smith began his professional career as a sports director for Department of the Army in Kaiserslautern, (West) Germany. Later, as the Director of Community Activities in Frankfurt, Germany, he oversaw youth sports programs, sports programs for soldiers, the community’s recreation facilities, as well as family support services.

     Following his return to Georgia after serving 13 years overseas as a Department of the Army civilian, Smith has committed much of his time to the Georgia Athletic Officials Association, an organization dedicated to the concerns of high school officials and to improving officiating across all sports throughout the state. He has served as executive director of the GAOA since 2006. Smith says that his interactions with other officials, especially mentoring younger officials, has been particularly rewarding.

     Smith commented that the recognition he has received from the Coaches Association is a highlight of his many years involved in youth sports. “It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by the GACA,” he commented. “Sometimes people think of coaches and referees as adversaries. But it takes all of us, coaches, officials, administrators, and fans, to make sure our young athletes have all the great opportunities they deserve. I’m thrilled to be recognized for playing a part in that.”

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