Hawthorne impacts students beyond the diamond

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

Within the realm of high school sports can be found a few coaches who leave a lasting impact on their players and communities. Cindy Bryan Hawthorne, head girl’s softball coach at Brantley High School, is one such individual according to many present and past players, including Leanna Johnson, a 2018 graduate of Brantley High School and a recent graduate of Troy University, were she was named the 2023 female athlete of the year.

Johnson credits Hawthorne with helping mold her into the athlete and the woman she is today.

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“Coach Cindy has been one of the most consistent people in my life,” Johnson said. “Not only did she help my game become better, but she also influenced me to become a better person. It wasn’t always about softball with Coach Cindy. She taught me life lessons, helped me become the player and person I am today, and pushed me to be my best on the days that weren’t going the greatest. She taught me to never give up. Not only is she a great coach, but she’s also a great human and mom and someone I look up to as I start my coaching journey and always.”

Hawthorne is a familiar face in the school’s athletic department. With her extensive coaching experience and dedication to her alma mater, Hawthorne has been an integral part of the school’s sports program for many years.

Hawthorne is a 1992 Brantley High School graduate and has a longstanding passion for physical education and coaching. She began her career as an aide at Brantley and helped coach girls JV and Varsity Basketball under Waylon Bush 1997 to 2002. 

Combining her love for kids and sports, Hawthorne found her calling in coaching high school students and since 2003, she has held the position of head coach, leading the team with her passion for sports and her genuine love for working with young athletes.

 “I love kids first and foremost and I also love sports,” Hawthorne said. “The two really just go hand in hand when it comes to coaching high school students. I always knew I wanted to be a physical education teacher and coaching comes along with that, part of the territory in a great way.”

As a former outfielder during her own high school years, and as part of a team that reached the state championship during both her junior and senior years, Hawthorne understands the value of a strong foundation in both academics and athletics. Drawing inspiration from her mentors, she credits Liz Sullivan , Gloria Rayburn, and Mary Ann Hudson for instilling into her their pride in the school and their dedication to their work. 

Additionally, Coach Anthony Stallworth and others played instrumental roles in shaping her coaching philosophy and teaching her the importance of dedication and the value of excellence.

According to Hawthorne, success on the softball field requires leadership, and she encourages her players to embrace this role. She recognizes that leadership can come from unexpected sources and is not limited to star players. 

Hawthorne emphasized the significance of selflessness and teamwork, noting, “When players are unselfish and nobody cares who gets their name in the paper, that’s when success happens.”

Under Hawthorne’s guidance, the Bulldogs have achieved notable success, including a recent state championship. Looking ahead, Hawthorne acknowledges the hunger within her team to return to the top. 

With a talented core of returning starters, she is confident that their hard work and dedication will pay off. However, Hawthorne emphasizes that winning is not the sole focus. Instead, she emphasizes continuous improvement and personal growth, with the belief that success will naturally follow.

Hawthorne acknowledged that, especially in an era where volunteering is becoming less common, her coaching achievements would not be possible without the unwavering support of her assistant coaches, Jonny Cal Young and Jimmie Johnson. She said t dedicated individuals have volunteered countless hours to help shape the athletes at Brantley High School, serving as invaluable mentors and role models. Their selflessness and commitment to the well-being of the players have contributed significantly to the team’s success. Hawthorne expressed her deep gratitude for their contributions and hopes a spotlight will be shined on their efforts.