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Waccamaw High: Warriors start search for new AD
By Charles Swenson
Joan Cribb will step down as the athletic director at Waccamaw High at the end of the school year. Interviews with applicants to fill the position she has held since 2002 will start next week, principal David Hammel said. Hammel posted the opening last week in an email to Waccamaw High staff. “We’re limited by teaching positions, so we’re looking in-house first,” he said. He asked the district this year for an additional Spanish teacher and he created a position for the new football coach who teaches social studies. He said he won’t fill Cribb’s position as one of four P.E. teachers.
Hammel praised Cribb for “mentoring and caring for students through athletics. That’s a legacy that will live on.”
“This is what I wanted to do since I was in the second grade,” she said. Now it’s time to move on.
“I know what I need to do. I hate it,” Cribb said. She has asked for a job closer to her home in the Pleasant Hill area, where she lives on the family farm. She meant to move to Waccamaw Neck after taking a job as P.E. teacher at Waccamaw High in 1995. Her mother got sick, and she stayed to help with her care. In recent years, she cared for her father. He died last summer and now she runs the farm.
The farm still grows tobacco, the crop that Cribb worked growing up. She knew she wanted to be a P.E. teacher and a coach. She learned early that she had the people skills. Her eighth-grade teacher found she was talking too much, so she moved Cribb next to “the worst person in the class.” “I started talking to them,” Cribb recalled.
The teacher put Cribb’s desk next to her own. “I started talking to her,” she recalled. “I can deal with and talk with about anyone.”
Cribb went to Coastal Carolina College, then part of the University of South Carolina system, on a basketball scholarship. She still holds the single-season record for average points by a freshman (21.5). She’s fourth in all-time points scored (1,498).
She started teaching at Choppee High, which later merged with Pleasant Hill to form Carvers Bay. She coached basketball, volleyball and track. She also drove the team bus but balked when she was asked to drive a regular bus route, too.
She took courses at night and in the summer at The Citadel to earn a master’s degree. Cribb got the job she had dreamed about as a kid when she was 43. Dennis Lee, the athletic director since Waccamaw High opened in 1990, resigned in 2002 when the principal at the time announced he would be replaced. Principal Nona Kerr said the sports program was losing support from students and the community.
Cribb had coached basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, track and cross country. She gave up coaching for a time, saying it was important not to show any signs of partiality. It’s important that coaches work together and support one another, she said at the time. That’s still true today.
“It takes communication and collaboration,” said Hammel. “Sharing time and athletes.”
There were 524 students at Waccamaw High when Cribb took over as AD. There were 26 sports teams. There are now 36 teams and 880 students.
Hammel is a former athletic director at Carvers Bay and St. James High. In his nine years as principal, Waccamaw has added wrestling, swimming and lacrosse to its roster of sports. S.C. High School League rules have extended the time when teams can practice, so there’s greater overlap and more demands on athletes and facilities.
The school district’s $165 million bond referendum approved by voters last year will bring an auxiliary gym, tennis courts and a new track to Waccamaw and the county’s other three high schools. Hammel is working with architects to get a rubberized track that will allow the school to host Lower State and invitational meets. “By June or July, we’ll have a better idea what’s possible,” he said.
Interviews with candidates for AD will start next week. Hammel said he is looking for someone “to take it to the next level.”
There is no lack of support for the school and its teams. “It’s an important job for the athletic director and booster club to work together closely,” said Brian Henry, the booster club president, adding that Cribb has done that. “She’s been supportive of me in the last four years as president.”
With new facilities coming and a new head football coach already running spring practice, “it’s an important time for WHS athletics,” Henry said.
The booster club believes that improving the football program will help draw attention to the other sports where Waccamaw is a traditional playoff contender. “We’ve had the least amount of success in football,” Hammel said. But he said the sport’s importance is more a reflection of Southern culture than his priorities.
Henry, who called Waccamaw athletics “second to none in the area,” also said “we could take it to a whole new level with success on the football field.” Although he will be part of the interview team for the new athletic director, Henry said he isn’t looking for someone to push football.
There are other qualities that are important. Henry recalled one of the first times he encountered Cribb. He was announcing a track meet and there was a crowd of unruly kids outside the press box. “She basically shut them down,” Henry said. “I was very impressed.”
“You’ve got to have the personality to handle all the different situations and attitudes,” Cribb said. “I’m a very straightforward person.”
The athletic director’s job has changed in 16 years. “Big time,” Cribb said. “There’s so much more paperwork now that needs to be done.”
Eventually she found her way back into coaching. She took over the girls tennis team that had won a series of state championships under coach James Brown. Neither she nor Brown had a background in tennis, but they had a core of players with USTA experience. “There’s a lot more to coaching than just the skills,” Cribb said.
When she took over girls soccer for a season, she recruited Donna Anderson, a former player at the University of North Carolina, to help. For tennis, she got help from Mary Cannon, a USTA player. The same philosophy holds true for the AD’s job. “It takes more than me to do this job. It’s not an easy job,” she said. “If I didn’t have a wonderful P.E. department, Shannon [McAlister], Gordon [Walters] and Jeff [Gregory], I couldn’t do it.”
Gregory is the assistant AD.
The booster club also makes a difference. “I don’t know of a team that has asked for something and hasn’t got it,” Cribb said. “Our booster club is great.”
Those will be things for the next athletic director to build on. “I think I’ve done a lot. The athletic department’s been turned around,” Cribb said. And she will be back to see what the next level looks like. She has a nephew who plays on the JV lacrosse team. But most of her family is still in the Pleasant Hill area. “There comes a time when you need to get back home,” Cribb said.
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