A person would have to look long and hard to find someone in Alabama more passionate about the sport of soccer than Joe Webb.
The Huffman High School graduate has been a high school soccer coach for 29 years, the last 25 at Mountain Brook. His Spartans’ team presented him with his 400th career coaching win in 2018. His win total is more than 450, but he’s not counting.
What he prefers to count are the number of student-athletes he has had the chance to coach and who have developed a similar passion for the sport and the life lessons it can teach.
Earlier this summer, Webb was selected as the Class 6A honoree for the 2021 Making a Difference Award by the Alabama High School Athletic Association and the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association. He was among seven individuals chosen because they have made an impact as exemplary role models.
One recipient from each of the AHSAA’s seven classifications was selected from nominations submitted by AHSAA member schools and other support organizations or individuals.
The other recipients are Anthony Edwards, Loachapoka High School (1A), softball, basketball, track and football coach; Matthew Kennedy, Westbrook Christian High School (2A), head baseball coach; Ryan Hall, Oakman High School (3A), head football coach; Eddie Bullock, Anniston High School (4A), head football and girls’ basketball coach; Chris Bashaw, Guntersville High School (5A), volunteer track coach; and Nancy Shoquist, Mary Montgomery High School (7A), retiring volleyball coach.
Each honoree will be recognized at the 2021 AHSAA Summer Conference Championship Coaches’ Awards Banquet, which will be held July 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center at 6 p.m.
“I don’t know what to say,” Webb said. “I did not expect it. I’m honored. To be recognized for something you love to do is pretty cool.”
Webb’s unorthodox coaching style has included presenting a wild neck tie in some key contests to the Spartans’ player of the match, a ritual he adopted in honor of his father John “Buddy” Webb, who died in 2004.
He and his dad traded in wearing “normal” ties 25 years ago for wilder “fun” ties adorned by Disney and other cartoon characters. The practice has been embraced by the players. He once even presented the “game tie” to a player on the opposing team.
Webb’s passion and caring attitude has come naturally. He is the son-in-law of former Indian Springs soccer coach Ray Woodard, the man chiefly responsible for bringing soccer to the state of Alabama more than half a century ago. He admits that Woodard, now deceased, taught him to love the sport as much as he did. That passion earned Webb the 2020 United Soccer Coaches Alabama High School Coach of Significance Award.
Webb earned his national USSF coaching license and serves as a referee outside his high school season. He coached in the first AHSAA North-South All-Star Soccer match in 2007 and has had at least one player on the squad every year since. He also has taken up the microphone as a commentator for the NFHS Network live-stream production of the AHSAA State Championships – that is, when his team didn’t reach the finals.
His Making a Difference Award nominator, a former club player for Webb and now a successful high school coach herself, wrote, “Despite his many accomplishments on the field, it is who he is off the field that led me to nominate him. I have known Joe for 27 years and he has been a personal mentor to me both on and off the field.
“I met him when I was in high school. He helped me through college and as I started my coaching and teaching career after college. He has been my mentor, coach, friend, and even teammate. He is still my sounding board both for coaching and for life. … He has been the same mentor for many other coaches throughout Alabama and in other states. Joe is the glue of competitive high school soccer in Alabama.”
The Making a Difference Award was established in 2011 by the AHSAA and AHSADCA to recognize individuals who go beyond their normal duties as a coach, teacher or administrator to make a positive impact in their schools and communities.
“The recipients in this 2021 Making a Difference class are excellent examples of men and women who take their positions as role models for their students, faculty and community very seriously and have shown extraordinary determination in the challenges each has faced,” said former AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese, who retired at the end of June.
“This award is the most important honor a professional educator in our state can receive,” he continued. “Qualities considered for this prestigious award include the recipient’s character, integrity, determination and service, all of which have enabled these individuals to have a life-changing impact on the community or school which they serve.”
—Alabama High School Athletic Association