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Four from Arizona named NFHS National Coaches of the Year

January 16, 2020 by Seth Polansky, AZPreps365

Photos courtesy of Xavier College Prep, Miami High School, Horizon High School and Ike Everard/AZPreps365

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (January 16, 2020)— Twenty-three high school coaches from across the country have been selected as 2019 National Coaches of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association for the 2018-19 school year.

Xavier College Prep girls cross country coach Dave Van Sickle, Miami girls tennis coach Cherry Roberds, Horizon girls volleyball coach Valorie McKenzie and Chandler badminton coach Lois Emshoff have been recognized as national winners for their respective sports. As badminton is not a sport sanctioned nationally, Emshoff earned her award in the "other sports" category.

Van Sickle has been coaching the Gators program for 35 years with 10 state championships, seven runner-up finishes, and has placed in the top three at state for 12 of the past 13 seasons. He has won over 20 regional and sectional coach of the year awards at the state level.

Roberds has won an unprecedented 23 state titles in her 53 years as a head tennis coach. A National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee in 2003, Roberds has also coached boys tennis, girls volleyball and badminton at Miami High School with state titles in each of those sports as well.

McKenzie has been at the helm of Horizon program since the school opened in 1980. In that time she has won three state championships, nine semifinalist appearances and has qualified for the postseason 34 times. Over 60 of her former players have received college scholarships to play volleyball.

Emshoff was a groundbreaking coach in badminton, having been a part of the sport for over 50 years and was one of the catalysts in bringing it to the AIA. She has won five state championships over time and has been inducted into the halls of fame for Agua Fria High School, City of Chandler Athletic for coaching and participating, Arizona Badminton Association, Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Association and You Paved the Way.

The NFHS, which has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982, honors coaches in the top 10 girls sports and top 10 boys sports (by participation numbers), and in two “other” sports – one for boys and one for girls – that are not included in the top 10 listings. The NFHS also recognizes a spirit coach as a separate award category. Winners of NFHS awards must be active coaches during the year for which they receive their award. This year’s awards recognize coaches for the 2018-19 school year.

Recipients of this year’s national awards for boys sports are: Glenn Cecchini, baseball, Lake Charles (Louisiana) Alfred M. Barbe High School; J.R. Holmes, basketball, Bloomington (Indiana) South High School; Karl Koonce, cross country, Pearcy (Arkansas) Lake Hamilton High School; Terry Curtis, football, Mobile (Alabama) UMS-Wright Preparatory School; James Orcutt, golf, North Platte (Nebraska) High School; Terry Michler, soccer, St. Louis (Missouri) Christian Brothers College High School; David Hanson, swimming and diving, Warwick (Rhode Island) Bishop Hendricken Catholic High School; David Fredette, tennis, Armada (Michigan) High School; William “Bill” Thorn, track and field, Fairburn (Georgia) Landmark Christian School; and James Matney, wrestling, Paintsville (Kentucky) Johnson Central High School.

Other recipients of the 2019 NFHS national awards for girls sports are: Jack Gayle, swimming and diving, Snellville (Georgia) Brookwood High School; Desmond Dunham, track and field, St. John’s (District of Columbia) College High School; Sherri Anthony, basketball, Ponte Vedra (Florida) Nease High School; Dick Bliss, golf, Hopkinton (Massachusetts) High School; Carol Rainson-Rose, lacrosse, Northport (New York) High School; Meredith Messer, soccer, Rockport (Maine) Camden Hills Regional High School; and Deborah Schwartz, softball, Toms River (New Jersey) Donovan Catholic High School.

The recipient of the National Coach of the Year Award for spirit is Stephanie Blackwell of Bixby (Oklahoma) High School. Steven DeAngelis, a cross country skiing coach at Readfield (Maine) Maranacook Community High School, was chosen in the “other” category for boys sports.

The NFHS has a contact in each state who is responsible for selecting deserving coach award recipients. This person often works with the state coaches’ association in his or her respective state. He or she contacts the potential state award recipients to complete a coach profile form that requests information regarding the coach’s record, membership in and affiliation with coaching and other professional organizations, involvement with other school and community activities and programs, and coaching philosophy. To be approved as an award recipient and considered for sectional and national coach of the year consideration, this profile form must be completed by the coach or designee and then approved by the executive director (or designee) of the state athletic/activities association.

The next award level after state coach of the year is sectional coach of the year. The NFHS is divided into eight geographical sections. They are as follows: Section 1 – Northeast (CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT); Section 2 – Mideast (DE, DC, KY, MD, OH, PA, VA, WV); Section 3 – South (AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN); Section 4 – Central (IL, IN, IA, MI, WI); Section 5 – Midwest (KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD); Section 6 – Southwest (AR, CO, NM, OK, TX); Section 7 – West (AZ, CA, HI, NV, UT); and Section 8 – Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY).

Arizona had eight additional coaches named Section 7 winners. They are: Craig Mai (boys golf/Mingus Union), Lynne Cote (girls golf/Marana Mountain View), TJ Hagen (boys soccer/Mesa), Jeff Penzone (girls soccer/Northwest Christian), Jeep Ray (softball/Corona del Sol), Phil Gonzales (boys tennis/Hamilton), Monty Montgomery (boys track & field/Highland) and Eric Richardson (girls track & field/Chandler). A full list of winners from all states can be found by clicking here.

The NFHS Coaches Association has an advisory committee composed of a chair and eight sectional representatives. The sectional committee representatives evaluate the state award recipients from the states in their respective sections and select the best candidates for the sectional award in each sport category. The NFHS Coaches Association Advisory Committee then considers the sectional candidates in each sport, ranks them according to a point system, and determines a national winner for each of the 20 sport categories, the spirit category and two “other” categories.

A total of 857 coaches will be recognized this year with state, sectional and national awards.

This press release was written by Hannah Wishart, Coordinator of Educational Services with the NFHS who works with the NFHS Coaches Association and the NFHS Coach Education Program.

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About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 17 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,000 high schools and 11 million participants in high school activity programs, including more than 7.9 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; offers online publications and services for high school coaches and officials; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, speech and debate coaches, and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS website at



MEDIA CONTACTS: Bruce Howard, 317-972-6900

Director of Publications and Communications

National Federation of State High School Associations


Chris Boone, 317-972-6900

Assistant Director of Publications and Communications

National Federation of State High School Associations