It is our honor and privilege to announce that Ann Schilling is the recipient of the 2019 Sports Imports/AVCA Courage Award. The Courage Award was founded to recognize a member of the volleyball community who in the face of hardship and adversity displays great courage and a determination to use their experience to better the world around them.
The volleyball community knows the name Bayside Academy – especially in the state of Alabama. This powerhouse program in Daphne, AL has the longest streak of state championship wins in national history — claiming number 18 this past October. That’s right, eighteen state championships in a row.
Their leader, Head Coach Ann Schilling, has been there from the beginning. Coach Schilling has lead the Bayside Academy Admirals for her entire coaching career – all 33 years of it. In that time, the Admirals have chalked up 25 state championships and have been to the state volleyball playoffs every single year. This past season, Coach Schilling got her 1,500th win–the first in AHSAA history. Of course, the success didn’t come without its challenges. Over the years, Bayside has been reclassed into four different divisions in Alabama athletics, moving to Class 4A for the first time in 2018. That didn’t stop the ever-determined team into becoming the first school in AHSAA history to win championship titles in 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A.
The 2018 season came with a different type of challenge, however. In January, Ann was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Due to how far the cancer had already progressed, Ann started chemotherapy treatment almost immediately. Soon after completing chemo, she had a mastectomy. During all of this, Ann never lost sight of what was important. While it would be easy to get depressed and angry, she did the opposite. After enduring an infection soon after surgery, Ann says she got bitter at first, but then her mind immediately flipped. “I’m not mad. I can see His hand on my life. I just thank God for another day.” She says she prayed for the right doctors to guide her through winning against this disease.
After three rounds of chemo, Ann received the news that her tumors had shrunk by 50%. After six rounds, they were almost gone. Today, after a recent pet scan in September, Ann is able to declare herself as cancer FREE! She says, “days are so much more meaningful,” and now lives by the rule of allowing herself to only be mad about something for a few minutes. After that, it’s time to let it go.
Ann says that facing cancer did have an impact on her coaching style. While she still instilled drive and competitive spirit in her players, she said “I changed. I was more patient. I was kinder. And, I was stern when I needed to be, but it changed me.” Although changed, her will and her team’s will to win was untouched. That same year, during Ann’s diagnosis, battle, and treatments, the Bayside Academy volleyball team went on to win their 17th straight state championship title.
Coach Ann Schilling’s courage, strength, and faith never ceased through tremendous adversity. We are privileged to celebrate Ann by presenting her with the Courage Award at the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America/Players of the Year Banquet on Friday, December 20, 2019, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.