Alabaster, home sweet home

By the eighth grade, Carla Ragland was playing on the Thompson High School volleyball team, thanks to the sharp eye of Coach Sammy Skinner who saw her potential as a seventh grader.

Each day, she walked from the old Thompson Middle School through Siluria to practice at the old Thompson High School.

She played “middle” and was the girl to watch in 1989 through 1992. When she graduated from THS in 1992, she had her pick of scholarships at Ole Miss, UAB and the University of Montevallo. She took her full-ride scholarship and went to play for Coach Judy Green as a “left side” at the University of Montevallo.

Though she has participated in soccer, softball, track and basketball, volleyball is her “passion.” At the University of Montevallo, she was an All-American and in 1999 made the school’s Hall of Fame.

Carla was a member and then a coach for a volleyball travel club called “Sojourners.” When that team disbanded, Ragland and JoAnn Hollis, from Simmons Middle school formed the Alabama Juniors with just six teams in 1999. Since then they have had as many as 21 teams in a season. Try-outs are in November. January through April is play time and travel time.

In 1995, Carla married Lee Ragland, a University of Montevallo baseball player, after her junior year. In 1996, she was hired as head coach at Thompson High School. Thompson High School placed second in state her first season. Ragland was Coach of the Year twice before 2001, when she resigned to spend more time with her family.

From 2005 through 2008, Ragland was back as head coach at Thompson. She currently serves as a mentor to the team and coaches physical education.

She is at Simmons two-to-three nights per week and gone most weekends with the Alabama Juniors. Ragland is an advocate of sports involvement. “It’s good for (the students) health, keeps them busy, hopefully provides all around fitness goals and personal achievements for them” she said.

Coach Carla wants to pass on an opportunity to kids who otherwise may not go to college. “I was given that opportunity and I worked hard to take full advantage – sports-wise and academically,” she said. Her children, Braxton, 12, Caleb, 9, and MaKayla, 5, all play sports and their parents are active coaches.

Ragland sees herself teaching, coaching and being totally involved with young people for the next 20 years. She’s obviously a “giver.” Thompson High School and Alabama Juniors are very lucky to have her.

Sandra Thames writes a weekly column for the Shelby County Reporter Reporter. Contact her at bobthames1942@yahoo.com.