Recognized by your peers is a level of accomplishment that brings to the forefront the impact that you have made was spotlighted on a trio of Lexington coaches at the 2016 Nebraska Coaches Association (NCA) Awards Banquet held on Sunday evening at the Lincoln Station Great Hall.
Kylee Kuecker, Al Shirley and Tom Wisdom were all honored during the festivities with elite accolades.
Kylee Kuecker was named the 2016 Varsity Dance Coach of the Year. Kylee Kuecker has been deeply involved in the Liberty Belles Dance team at Lexington High School for many years. Kuecker has seen her squads excell each season as they perform throughout the winter sports season and at the State Competition held in Grand Island.
Lexington’s Al Shirley was unveiled as the winner of the Binnie & Dutch Award on Sunday. Excellence is not always measured by hardware but successful seasons, and for Lexington’s Al Shirley, he had the best of both worlds with a 35 year career that impacted many young tracksters along with winning multiple state track championships and earning runner-up trophies more than once.
“Coach Shirley always wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his teams and kids,” expressed Lexington Assistant Track Coach Stacy Strauss. “He was always finding the positives and knew just how hard he could push a team and/or individual, coaching and leading a track team just came naturally for him. He has always cared and continues to care about their lives as much as their performances and he was their #1 advocate on the track along with supporting them wholeheartedly in school and the community.”
The impact of Shirley reached well beyond the 4-year careers of the athletes. “Coach Shirley built a culture and tradition of excellence. We wore our uniform with pride, knowing we were competing for something bigger than ourselves,” stated Dr. Haley Bergstrom, former standout Lexington sprinter. “He made us believe in the bigger picture, to work for the good of the team. We believed we would win because he believed.”
“He believed in us so much, that we were willing to go above and beyond for him,” expressed former Maid Leah (Luther) Everson. “Coach Shirley had a way about him that we always respected, rarely argued with and completely trusted his advice and guidance.”
Being a man of few words, Al Shirley had the knack of saying the right things at the right time. Former Lexington sprinter Lindsie Woolley recalls a State Track meet occurance that will always stick in her mind, “We had just arrived at Omaha Burke Stadium and Coach Strauss asked Shirley if he had any words of encouragement and his response was ‘Run Fast’ and then he shut the van door and walked away. Those were the most encouraging words I heard all weekend because he had the utmost confidence that we would compete to the best of our ability because we were well-trained.”
Being well-trained on the track and off will always be a staple to the coaching of Al Shirley. “Coach made a huge impact on my life. His desire to help me reach my full potential both on and off the track was always accompanied by a smile, an on occaison a genuine hug,” expressed Sydney (Seberger) Wagner. “There was nothing sweeter than closing my high school career off with a state championship win and I immediately looked for Coach Shirley because I knew I had finally accomplished something he knew long before that we could achieve.”
Along with Sydney Wagner, Jenny (Landen) Killion and Tiffany (Roemmich) Denker always remember hearing Coach Shirley giving encouragement and split times at the 200 meter mark. “He had a voice I could here above all others and always helped me to finish my races strong. He always told us, ‘Its gonna be a good day, girls’ and ‘lets get out and compete’, explained Tiffany Denker.
“As I was working out on the Kearney track this summer, I was running 400’s. Even 10-plus years later I felt like I was still waiting for that split time to be hollered out,” stated Jenny Killion. “You could always count on him with the time and encouraging words.”
Nicole Shirley got the best of both worlds by growing up at the track with her father Al Shirley, but then also having great success as an athlete under the tutelage of Coach Shirley. “I would not have been as successful of an athlete without his guidance as a coach and discipline as a loving father.” stated Nicole Shirley. “Some of my fondest memories betweeen me and my dad were those made on the track and the many accomplishments we got to share.”
Accomplishing greatness and having success had become traditions for the Lexington Minutemaids Track program. “We trusted in him and he got more out of us than we thought possible,” expressed Erin (Jones) Mankin. “The best part of being coached by Mr. Shirleyis that I still know he cares about all of us.”
Winning the NCA Golf Award was Tom Wisdom of Lexington. Wisdom won the award for making significant contributions to high school golf in the State of Nebraska.
“Every golfer who was lucky enough to play for Coach Wisdom became a better player but more importantly a better person. Wiz demanded a lot from his players, but only because he demanded it of himself,” explained Bo Krivohlavek. “He would get us to a course very early so he could drive us around it and make sure we knew where the trouble was and what shoes we needed to him. Wiz would do anything to give us the best chance to be successful.