FOUR QUESTIONS…A CONVERSATION WITH LEIGH HEBBARD
Leigh Hebbard is now director of activities, athletics and drivers' education for Guilford County. He attended Roanoke High and graduated in 1981, and then graduated from East Carolina in 1986 with a degree in health and physical education. While at ECU, he also completed the sports medicine curriculum and his experiences included an internship with the New York Giants in the summer of 1985. He began his career in education in 1987 as a teacher and athletic trainer at High Point Andrews and moved to a similar role at Eastern Guilford in 1993. In June of 1994 he was selected as athletic director at Eastern Guilford and remained in that position for about a dozen years. He has also served as director for the NCHSAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament for a number of years.
You are a system athletic director, so you are directly involved with working with a number of high schools. What are the biggest challenges you believe high school athletic programs face today?
I believe there are a couple of challenges worth noting. First of all, the culture of sports for the high school age athlete has changed significantly. Although there are some who participate in multiple sports, many choose to focus on one sport year-round so they can develop their talents in one sport with hopes of reaching the highest level. Athletes with exceptional athletic ability are often not as available to the multiple high school coaches as they may have been in the past. This may, however, create an opportunity for more students to be involved in the athletic programs.
Finances are also a big challenge. As the expenses associated with operating the high school athletic program have increased, it is increasingly more difficult to generate enough revenue for the athletic department to pay all the bills. This seems to be especially true in the last five or six years.
What is your best memory of high school athletics personally, from your own involvement in them?
I think my best memory was when I the trainer at T.W. Andrews and we won the state football championship in 1991. The program was always successful, but this was my first experience with winning a state championship and I will forever remember the moment.
You have done a wonderful job directing the NCHSAA state wrestling championships at the Greensboro Coliseum. Describe the challenges you have to overcome to put on an event of that magnitude, and what might people be surprised by in putting on a wrestling tournament of this size?
I think one of the initial challenges was moving to computer scoring. We are now at a point where things seem to run smoothly, largely due to the fact that there are a lot of good people out there who are becoming more comfortable with what we do. Making sure everything is timed out so rounds start and finish on time is a challenge when dealing with a lot of variables, especially the length of each bout. For about a three-year period, we kept track of actual start end times of each round to develop some averages for each round. This seems to serve us well in planning the event and running it as we have for the past several years.
I do spend a lot of time thinking about the “what ifs” – weather, power outages, not enough table workers, etc. Any one of these can have a significant impact on the timing and flow of the event.
In your limited spare time, what are some of the activities you are involved in away from athletics?
Recently I have become more involved in my church and am now teaching a young adult Sunday school class. I have been known to spend hours on Xbox playing games. I enjoy cooking and usually cook meals for the entire family twice a week, which can be anywhere from eight to 12 people. Then I have to do some of the obligatory yard work or other things around the home.