HALL OF FAME SPOTLIGHT: Speight took two Stanly schools to state crowns

While other Stanly County coaches have captured multiple state softball championships since North Carolina moved from slow-pitch to fast-pitch in the mid 1990s, only Greg Speight has captured a state crown at two different Stanly high schools (South in 1998 and North in 2017).

Greg Speight

In all, the Richfield native tallied a win-loss mark of 354-133 over 21 seasons on the diamond (six at South, 15 at North).

Speight’s coaching success, however, has not been limited to softball. In 31 seasons coaching girls’ basketball, he amassed a record of 448-242, recorded three sectional championships (1993 and 1996 at South Stanly and 2005 at North Stanly) and was honored by being selected to coach in the NC Coaches’ Association East-West All-Star basketball game in 2013. He also served a four-year stint as golf coach at South Stanly, leading the team to a state runner-up finish in 1996.

While statistics are impressive, Speight is clear in stating his gratitude and admiration of those who introduced him to sports, in addition to the many players whose lives he has touched over the years.

“My initial interest in sports came from my dad and grandfather when I was 5 or 6,” he said. “We spent time playing ball in the yard and reading sports stories in the newspapers…as we grew up it was what we did for fun.”

Speight also cited a number of coaches who influenced his career path as well as his coaching style.

“As a little league baseball player Coach Lonnie Chandler (also a Stanly Sports HOF member) was my coach for four summers and I admired his excitement at practice. Coach Ronnie Morris was my coach in seventh and eighth grade basketball and baseball, and I loved his temper when we screwed up. But, he was always prepared afterwards to tell us why it happened, and how to best keep it from happening again.”

As he aged up into high school, Speight cited longtime coach Stan Napier’s example as instrumental in his choosing to later move into coaching as a career.

“He (Napier) coached both the boys and girls JV teams simultaneously. I thought that would be the greatest job in the world. Getting to practice twice every day, what could be better?”

Speight added, “But once I started coaching, I wondered how he did it.”

Entering the teaching profession after college, Speight was quick to name a number of fellow coaches from whom he learned the finer points of the craft.

“I was able to pick up so many things from so many different people,” he said. “I really enjoyed working with Coach Jack Ingram. He made things so simple and always stressed that players give their best effort. Mike Crump was very good at teaching the players and making sure they enjoyed getting better, both as players and as people. And Natalie Haithcox was great at preparation and not letting us make the same mistakes twice.”

Learning, however, is a two-way street, and the veteran coach acknowledged there is much that can be learned from the students under them.

“The most important thing I ever learned through sports is from so many of my players during the past 36 years, which have passed in a blur,” said Speight. “The most successful players never quit, never gave up and saw a way to succeed when others did not. Long hours of practice did not deter them and most of them applied this work ethic to education and have become successful adults. Some became doctors, nurses, teachers and accountants. One is now an NFL executive. Others are contractors, pharmacists, law enforcement officers, occupational therapists and sports trainers. And thankfully many have become great parents, too.”

In closing, Speight reflected on his 36 years in the classroom, and on the field, court and course.

“I feel honored to have taught and coached during my adult working life. I can honestly say that on Sunday night I didn’t dread going to work on Monday. I enjoyed the long days of teaching and playing an away game afterwards, and I’m thankful for all the friends that I have made while teaching and coaching.”

Speight is one of five persons who will be inducted into the Stanly County Sports Hall of Fame at 6:30 p.m. July 17 at Merner Gymnasium at Pfeiffer University.

Tickets to the event are on sale at Albemarle, Locust and Oakboro city halls and parks and recreation departments, and at Starnes-Bramlett Jewelers and Uwharrie Dash in Albemarle.

Tickets are $35 in advance, and $50 on the day of the event.