MOBILE, Alabama -- “All kids need someone to care for them and be loved,” said Calvin Turnipseed, a coach at Phillips Preparatory Magnet School. “I aim to make a difference in kids’ lives as a coach and a teacher.”
Turnipseed, who has been at Phillips since 1995, is the Department Chairman and Athletic Director at Phillips. He coaches football as well as the boys and girls basketball and track and field teams.
He was named Teacher of the Year at Phillips in 2009-10.
“We have fun, win or lose,” Turnipseed said. “It is not about winning. It is about how you can help these kids mature and succeed in life.”
Last month, the Phillips boys basketball team marked a milestone in its magnet school history by finishing second place in the 2A Division.
In the championship game, the Phillips Pirates led the Pillans Eagles by five points with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. Pillans stormed back to tie the game 38-38 at the end of regulation, and went on to shut out the Pirates 12-0 in overtime to win 50-38.
In a losing cause, Marcus Wiggins led all scorers with 18 points; Brandon Hinton added 10, Kries Moffett 6, Tmaurice Smith 3, and Collins Woods added a free throw for Phillips.
"This game should be an instant classic: Two teams that fought hard and neither one lay down. We were very disappointed with the outcome of the game, but not in our effort,” Turnipseed said. “We made improvements in our program that I hope will carry on to next season.”
Turnipseed’s girls’ basketball teams won the title the last three years before finishing 6-5 this year. The Phillips girls’ track and field team has won the Division title seven years in a row and the boys won the championship for the first time in 2012.
Turnipseed, 55, is a lifelong Mobilian who was born into a low-income, working class family. “My childhood home life was not the best, but there have been a lot of people that influenced me and have had an impact on my life,” he said.
“My mother and grandmother raised our family and taught us all the right values and were firm about church. … my dad was not involved very much,” Turnipseed said. “My dad left home when I was in high school so my mom was left to care for us.”
He graduated from Toulminville High School and decided not to continue his education. “I think I broke my mother’s heart when I told her that I did not want to go to college. Like most mothers, she wanted me to be a doctor,” Turnipseed said.
He spent the next eight years working, first at Ingalls Shipbuilding and then at Scott Paper Co., before he realized that he wanted to do more to help others.
“I had an experience that changed my life,” he said. “Jesus became real. All those years in Sunday School finally made sense. I felt I had a mission to work with children, to give back what was given to me.”
He found his passion when he volunteered to coach football at Cottage Hill Park. “I coached park ball for several years before my wife, Kim, encouraged me to go to school and get a degree so I could make coaching my career,” Turnipseed said. “It was like a bolt of lightning hit me.”
He enrolled at the University of South Alabama in 1984 and earned his bachelors and masters degrees in education. He landed his first job teaching in 1989 at Martha Thomas Elementary School in Whistler, earning Teacher of Year honors in his first year.
He also became an assistant football coach at LeFlore High School under Coach Glen Yancey. “I learned so much from Coach Yancey -- he was a master in organization and motivation,” Turnipseed said. “Yancey taught me to really love the student-athletes, help them achieve their goals and become productive members of society, and always be willing to give back to the community.”
After six years at Thomas Elementary, Turnipseed got a call from Sylvia Douglas, who was in charge of physical education at Barton Academy. “She asked me if I would be interested in coaching at Phillips Preparatory School,” Turnipseed said. “Saying good-bye to my Thomas family was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.”
Turnipseed met Coach Glenn Jones and they coached football together in 1995. “Coach Jones taught me that it was not about winning championships, it is about what we do for the kids -- and it made a difference in changing my focus about what I can do for the kids,” Turnipseed said. “I learned to prepare the kids for the next level in high school and college.”
“Looking back, I now know that Phillips is where I am supposed to be. I have had the pleasure of meeting and teaching with some of the best people,” Turnipseed said. “I have also been blessed to work with and for some of the best minds in the system. Coaches like Jones, Amy Cabaniss and Gayla Wiik took me in and showed me how to work as a team.”
Turnipseed had high praise for his colleagues at Phillips, including principal Brenda Hartzog and assistant coach Tim Manning. “Tim and I have had a blast working together,” he said. “I really can’t do much without Tim. He makes sure that practice schedules, eligibility forms and all paperwork are complete and he is also a super coach.”
Success in coaching can’t be measured in wins and losses, Turnipseed said. “I feel that no matter how many contests you win, if you don’t help your student-athletes mature as young adults, they will have a hard time finding success.
“I always keep as many kids on my teams as I can because everyone of them has something to contribute,” he said. “It is not what I can do for the kid; it is what the team can do for the kid.”
Turnipseed’s wife, Kim, is a teacher at Mary B. Austin Elementary School. They have a daughter, Sarah Beth, and a son, Joshua, both students at the University of South Alabama. His mother, Sarah, is a retired day-care teacher.
Turnipseed believes the most important parts of his job are to teach his students to work as hard as they can to achieve their goals, and to help whenever he’s needed.
“If my student-athletes remember nothing more about me other than I loved them, then I will be a happy man.”
This story was written by Joey Warner, Press-Register Correspondent.