Named in honor of the TSSAA's first executive secretary, the A.F. Bridges Award is given to schools that have had no reported unsportsmanlike conduct incidents during the previous school year and have displayed an overall positive effort to teach, expect, and demand a positive atmosphere of sportsmanship at their athletic contests.
Cornersville initially received an A.F. Bridges Divisional Award that is annually given out to nine Class A schools each yeay for the A.F. Bridges Award of Excellence in Middle Tennessee. CHS was then bestowed the A.F. Bridges Award of Excellence for the entire state after being deemed more worthy than the top candidates from East and West Tennessee.
This is the highest award that can be bestowed upon a school by TSSAA to honor its overall efforts to promote citizenship and sportsmanship at a school and its' athletic contests.
"I think it says that our coaches take a lot of pride in sportsmanship all the way down to the youth level. Plus the mommas and daddies of our athletes have instilled sportsmanship in the kids," said Cornersville principal Bob Edens. "We have tried to monitor how the fans should react during games. We're proud of the behavior of our community. They have been great sportsmen."
During the previous school year, Cornersville athletics experienced two of the greatest postseason runs in the school's history, as the Lady Bulldogs basketball team advanced to the State Tournament for the first time ever, while the CHS softball team finished third in the State tourney for the second straight season.
"Last year we had a good run of athletes and that run of success brings a little bit more responsibility. We were more in the eye of the people that watch that kind of stuff," said Spencer Mitchell, who is Cornersville's athletic director and softball coach. "Winning is sort of contagious and sportsmanship is kind of expected when you move up the ladder of success. Our fans have been great the last two years during basketball and softball."
CHS girls basketball coach Micah Landers echoed Mitchell's sentiments and believes last year's playoff run by the Lady Bulldogs was special because of the way Cornersville fans supported his players.
"I think that the crowds that we had during that postseason run supplied a lot of positive support. It was a very pure and fundamental support for the kids. It wasn't about boosting their ego, but about what the girls had accomplished for them. This is one of the few communities left that fully supports their kids and athletics wholeheartedly," said Landers. "When I look back on my coaching career after it's over, one of my fondest memories will be those four home games during last year's playoff run."
Although athletic success is the goal of all sports programs, Edens wants Cornersville's teams to show respect towards their opponents regardless if they win or lose.
"I have tried to make sure that our coaches have worked hard on sportsmanship with parents and the players," said Edens. "I think that we have tried to establish school pride here not only in academics but also in athletics."
"I ask my players, what do you want people to say about you when they leave the gym," said Landers. "I want them to represent our program the way it is supposed to be represented. I want people to say that they would want their daughter to play for coach Landers."
Hopefully winning the A.F. Bridges Award of Excellence will be a precursor to more honors for Cornersville athletics this school year.