Seven of St. Johns County’s (SJC) coaches were honored with the Jeff Holt Coach of the Year Award for Pursuing Victory with Honor at the St. Johns County School District’s (SJCSD) Pursuing Victory with Honor Workshop held yesterday at R.J. Murray Middle School (MMS). School Board Chair Tommy Allen provided welcome remarks to the more than 200 student athletes, coaches, athletic directors and district staff that were in attendance for this workshop which promoted leadership skills and character traits. Chad Johnson, senior vice president of Sales for the Jacksonville Jaguars provided the keynote speech while breakout sessions presented by Coach Greg Stanton of Creekside High School (CHS), Coach Sherri Anthony of Nease High School (NHS) and Tim Forson, deputy superintendent for Operations were also included. Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner provided closing remarks.
The following coaches received the Jeff Holt Coach of the Year Award for Pursuing Victory with Honor which was presented by Paul Abbatinozzi, director of School Services.
Coach Ben Windle recently completed his eighth year at Bartram Trail High School (BTHS) where he teaches AP history classes along with coaching the Girls Varsity Basketball Team. Windle is considered one of the top teachers in his profession and his students typically score amongst the highest at BTHS on their end-of-the-year AP tests. He administers AP review sessions to students and serves as the Social Studies Department chair. In the arena he has led the Lady Bears to one of the top girls’ basketball programs in the state. During his tenure, his teams have had a .750 winning percentage while averaging more than 23 wins per season over the last five seasons.
Coach Sabrina Hartsell’s field experience comes from playing softball at the college level. She has been involved in coaching Fast Pitch Softball for over nine years and brought her skills to the CHS Knights in 2011 where her record is 51-7. Hartsell also led the team to its first state championship game in 2013. CHS finished the year in 2013 as the state runner-up in 5A, after winning conference, district, and regional championships. Prior to coaching at CHS, Hartsell served as the head coach for The Bolles School.
Coach Brian Thomas has been the Head Baseball Coach at NHS for two years. Thomas’s overall win/loss record is 38-16. In the 2013 season, his team finished the year with a 21-5 record. In addition to athleticism, Thomas is a strong believer in family and community service and avidly supports Field of Dreams, a program for special needs children, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the American Stroke Association.
Coach Jeff Gatlin was born and raised in St. Augustine and is the Head Softball coach at Pedro Menendez High School (PMHS). He believes in teaching his athletes to learn key lessons that include the importance of family, school, hard work, humility, and being coachable and teachable throughout life. When Gatlin and his team are not on the field practicing during the season, you may find them at the St. Francis House, serving a meal together to the homeless as he tries to teach that bonding through serving others is as important as bonding on the field.
Coach Daniel Villarreal is entering his sixth year as the Head Coach of Boys Soccer at Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS). The Ponte Vedra Sharks won the 3A State Championship this past year beating American Heritage 2-0 in the final. The team finished with a 24-3-4 record and was recognized as a MaxPreps award winner with a ranking of #22 in the nation. Villarreal has been coaching boys and girls in the area for 13 years. In the past, his players have been identified and selected to the Olympic Development Program and many of them have gone on to play at the college level. Villarreal was named the 2013 Class 3A Coach of the Year and the 2013 Florida Dairy Farmers Boys Soccer Coach of the Year (all classes).
Coach David Simpkins has lived in St. Johns County for 18 years and has coached for the SJCSD in a variety of titles since 1998. Simpkins is the Dean of Students and a math teacher at St. Augustine High School (SAHS). He has been Teacher of the Year at Sebastian Middle School and SAHS, Coach of the Year for the Florida Star Conference, the St. Johns River Athletic Conference and the North-South All-Stars. Simpkins is involved with Home Again St. Johns, an assistance organization that serves the less fortunate in St Johns County. When not on the courts or attending various events at SAHS, Simpkins can be found working with needy families in the community.
Coach Bryan Hinman from St. Joseph Academy has an extensive past with baseball. He has been involved in the St. Augustine Baseball League as a volunteer and assisted the St. Johns Middle School Athletic Association to bring sports back to middle schools. He was the Baseball Commissioner for St. Johns County middle schools during its inception and was a coach on the 2008 MMS staff when they won the Southern Division Championship. Most recently, Hinman served on the SAHS Yellow Jacket’s coaching staff as an assistant to Coach McCool for two years and was a part of the 2010 team that played for a district title. He works with both PMHS and SAHS while he continues to develop the St. Joseph Academy Baseball Program.
The Jeff Holt Coach of the Year Award for Pursuing Victory with Honor is named for Jeff Holt, an incredible educator, coach and dear friend within the SJCSD. Holt was someone who epitomized what Pursuing Victory with Honor stands for and was a leader in the classroom, as well as on the field and court. He made coaches around him better and helped student athletes capture the life lessons gained from participating in athletics. He was a true mentor to many current and past coaches and administrators. Regardless of the outcome of a game, Holt always kept his athletes focused on how special it is to be a student athlete and the positive impact they can have around campus and in the community.