During the 2020-2021 school year, the Positive Athlete Georgia organization received over 5,000 nominations for the most positive athletes and coaches in the state.
And in the end, that group decided that the most positive girls’ coach in the entire state was Ridgeland’s own Abby Bates.
The special education teacher and competition cheerleading coach, who has also helped out with basketball and wrestling since she was hired at the school in 2015, is a true favorite among students and her colleagues at the school.
Many current and former students, as well as fellow faculty members and other cheerleading coaches around the state, took to social media to congratulate Bates when the state awards were announced last month. Bates was originally named as the Most Positive Girls’ Coach in the West Georgia region.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “It was very exciting to win the Most Positive (Girls’) Coach for the state of Georgia. It’s an honor.”
Learning how to be a coach and learning how to be a positive influence for athletes and students is something Bates has plenty of first-hand experience with as she grew up in a family of coaches, starting with her grandfather, Ray Manus.
Manus was on the football staff at Roswell High School in metro-Atlanta for many years and served as the program’s head coach from 1975-1997, where he remains the winningest head coach in the history of the program. The stadium was named for him in 2004, when he returned to the Hornets as an assistant.
“I got to watch him be there and impact the community,” Bates said. “Then being with my dad, we’ve lived all around the state of Georgia, below Atlanta, south Georgia and back to north of Atlanta, where he retired last year. He had an impact everywhere he went. He was the man.
“My mom just stopped coaching cheerleading last year and she was my high school cheerleading coach. She was just loved by everyone and she was so supportive of all of us. My sister is younger than me and we battle just to see who’s going to be the best. That sisterly rivalry is really fun, but at the end of the day, we cheer each other on probably the hardest.”
Bates said she was excited to win the award because of the things she’s learned from her own family that she’s been able to pass on to the Ridgeland community.
“From them, I’ve learned just what it means to be a coach and just what it means to make an impact,” she continued. “You have to instill good character to your athletes along the way so they can grow up and be better humans. I’m just lucky to be here and be at Ridgeland High School for that.
“(Those things) have been instilled in me, so to see my name up there with that title, it’s just really an honor. I’m just so thankful for that. It was just a huge honor, especially going from last year to this year, it was great.”
Not only does Bates feel that her cheerleaders are some of the best athletes at the school, she is also impressed by their character and by the service projects they are involved with year-round.
“Their character speaks volumes,” she added. “They get involved in their community and they look for ways to lead and impact the community. To me, that’s really special.
“As a coach, you just want to see them become great humans and they are. That also has something to do with their parents, but it mostly has to do with them and them wanting to do that type of community outreach. I’m very proud.”
Positive Athlete Georgia has been giving out the awards to athletes in various sports, along with one boys’ and one girls’ coach and one school award, for the past eight years.
Their website says the purpose of the awards are to honor those “who have overcome difficult circumstances, given back to their schools and communities, or just have an infectious positive attitude.”