On Tuesday night, Tullahoma High School Coach Jenna Morris received an honor that she had no idea that she was even in the running for.
As Tullahoma is on fall break, the THS girls wrestling coach was just casually checking her email, when she received one with the subject “Congratulations.” After reading the email, Morris learned that she would be the recipient of the A.F. Bridges Award for Female Coach of the Year in Middle Tennessee.
“Well it’s awesome and I’m humbled by it,” Morris said. “The thing that I’m probably most excited about it is that it’s not just a wrestling award. The ultimate purpose is to draw more attention to girls wrestling and what we do. If it gets notoriety for that, then I’m happy about it.”
The A.F. Bridges Divisional Awards are presented by the TSSAA and are given to schools that have had no reported unsportsmanlike conduct incidents during the previous school year. Additionally, they must have displayed an overall positive effort to teach, expect and demand a positive atmosphere of sportsmanship at their particular contests.
The award is given in honor of the TSSAA’s first executive secretary. Bridges served as executive secretary from 1946 until 1972. Under his leadership, athletics in the state of Tennessee reached a level of excellence and competence that earned the respect of all people. According to the TSSAA, Bridges was a person of high principles who displayed firmness and fairness, as well as the high ideals of ethics and integrity, as he and many other school people established the foundation of the TSSAA across the state.
In total, there are seven A.F. Bridges Awards given out each year. The award is given for: School System Administrator of the Year, Principal of the Year, Athletic Director of the Year, Female Coach of the Year, Male Coach of the Year, Official of the Year and Contributor of the Year.
Morris was nominated for the Female Coach of the Year by Tullahoma High School Athletic Director John Olive. According to the Wildcats’ A.D., after reading over the qualifications, he thought that she was would the ideal candidate for the award.
“Coach Morris has done an outstanding job at developing a girls wrestling team for Tullahoma High School,” Olive said. “She’s not only done a great job of building our girls wrestling program from scratch, but she has become instrumental in helping our girls to become confident young women. That, to me, is the most important thing.
“I think that she has just done an outstanding job of helping those young ladies become very confident,” he added. “She obviously works very hard at her job and has had great success. She’s well deserving of the A.F. Bridges Award for Middle Tennessee.”
“It means a lot that Coach Olive would nominate me,” Morris said. “I’ve had some conversations with some coaches at the state tournament, who had their returning state champions receive medals, who said that they had never had a school principal or administrator come to any events. While, I’m like, ‘Look up at the stands. There’s my principal. There’s my athletic director. There’s my librarian. There’s our booster club president. There’s Pat Welsh, the chairman of the school board.’ We have something special here at Tullahoma, so it means a lot.”
Once she received the email letting her know that she was a recipient of this year’s award, Morris said she immediately contacted Olive.
“After I got the notification, I sent a screenshot of the email to Coach Olive and told him thank you,” Morris said. “He just responded saying, ‘You deserve it. You’re doing a great job with our girls.’ It really means a lot that he thinks that I’m doing a good job.”
Though she received the email acknowledging that she won the award, Morris will not collect the accolade until Nov. 7 at a reception at Hillwood High School. That ceremony is scheduled to get underway at 10 a.m.