By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In the nine-year history of The Millington Star’s Female Athlete of the Year Award, many Munford Lady Cougars have earned the honor.
Past winners have been Whitney Malone, Sami Jo Schulz, Cali Overbeck and the only junior to ever take home the prize Crystal Williams. Now the latest Lady Cougar to finish with the top honor is 2014 winner Jodie Duncan.
“It a complete honor and blessing truly,” she said. “Especially with the people in my class and who have won it before, it’s pretty crazy to me. It’s definitely an honor and a blessing.”
Duncan has shined at Munford the past four years in volleyball and softball reaching State in both sports. Her great hitting and fielding in softball helped the Lady Cougars reach Murfreesboro all four years and netted her a scholarship at UT-Martin joining Overbeck and Schulz as Munford Softball Division I signees.
Duncan said joining that duo in that category and as Millington Star Female Athlete of the Year is a blessing from Above.
“Being in the category with Sami Jo and Cali alone is unbelievable,” she said. “They’re two girls I’ve looked up to. Watching Cali play and then playing with Sami, it’s just an honor to just be mention with them.
“That was really crazy because you grow up dreaming I want to go D-I,” Duncan continued. “I want to make it big time. All of sudden when it kind of comes true, you’re putting your name on that piece of paper. You’re signing it. You’re like, ‘Wow, this day has come.’ You think about all the people who helped you get there. You know you couldn’t have done it without them.”
Several coaches like Nina Makris in volleyball and Glenn Goulder in softball have assisted Duncan during her days at Munford High School. But from all the youth league and travel team coaches, Duncan said her first coach had the largest impact on her reaching Athlete of the Year status and UT-Martin.
“I was born with some natural talent,” she acknowledged. “I’m so thankful God has given me the ability He has. And I’m really thankful for my parents, especially my Dad (Jeff). He really pushed me to be the best I could even the days I doubted myself. He was there supporting me. He knew I could make something of myself one day, especially in softball. He’s definitely my No. 1.”
Jeff, her mother Allyson were Jodie’s support system since she started playing softball at the age of 4. Along for the ride was her older brother Drew.
At times when Jodie doubted herself or felt she disappointed her parents or coaches, Drew was there to make her smile or reassure her Mom and Dad were always proud of her.
“Drew would always quote Dad but in a funny way,” Jodie recalled. “He was always like, ‘Throw the ball straight.’ He would be my first baseman when we were little. He hated it too. I would always throw it as hard as I could. But Drew has always been a big supporter of mine. And he has a big heart.”
The heart and soul of the family is her mother. Whether it was a smiling encouraging word or emphasizing a Jeff point, Jodie said her mother was always the glue of the family.
“Mom is the strongest woman there is,” she said. “She was always there after a tough game. You’re sad and you want that game back. You want to go back out there again. Mom was like, ‘There’s always another day. Tomorrow is a new day and you can go out there and make the most of it. You can always improve.’ She was always the calm one and kept me leveled.”
Jodie kept her parent busy most of the year with volleyball in the fall. After spotting a sign-up sheet in the sixth grade at Munford Middle, Jodie gave the sport a try.
In 2010, she became part of the State qualifying team featuring Williams and Munford All-Time great Scarlet Gable.
Duncan played along side Scarlet’s younger sister Savannah in middle school learning how to set. When Scarlet graduated, Duncan’s work with Savannah paid off earning her a starting spot.
The past three seasons, Duncan has set records assisting the youngest Gable, Cecily.
“The Gable Girls helped me a lot,” Duncan recalled. “Savannah was my setter in middle school and then in high school. She was the one who always helped me set and became my partner. She really helped me become the setter I became junior and senior year.
“Having Scarlet and Cecily around just made my job easier,” she added. “All I had to do was get the ball to them and they took care of the rest of it.”
Duncan doing her part helped the Lady Cougar Volleyball program reach four Sub-States. The sport she picked up glancing at a piece of paper allowed her Mother’s personality to emerge out of her.
“Volleyball was something I definitely had to work at every single day,” Jodie acknowledged. “Volleyball is a tough sport. My Mom’s side definitely comes out in volleyball. She was a cheerleader in school, so she definitely has that enthusium. I had that enthusium in volleyball. It was fun.”
But the game she has played most of her life brought out her Father’s side.
“Dad was a multiple athlete too,” she noted. “It’s a serious game but it’s not life you know. You’re trying to go out there and glorify God in all that you do. I’m definitely more serious out there because I guess I have more God-given talent for that sport.
“Growing up I knew that’s what I wanted to do, softball to the next level,” Jodie continued. “I was more serious with it from a younger age. I just kept that seriousness throughout.”
Her dedication to softball paid off with four trips to State and her career continuing with the Lady Skyhawks.
Duncan has added her name to the folklore of Lady Cougar sports with even some surprising individual honors.
“I’m happy I’ve never let sports get in the way of my relationship with Christ,” she said. “It so crazy I hold two school records for volleyball.”
She holds the school volleyball records for most assists in a season in 2012 and career assists. Then there are a few banners hanging in the gymnasium she was a part. But one banner holds a special place in her heart.
“My greatest team accomplishments, I would have to say being a part of the first softball team to make it to State my freshman year,” Duncan concluded. “That was fun walking around the school and everybody was like, ‘Hey, you’re the first.’ Then when we got to State our senior year, we were the first class to make it all four years. That’s the first time that’s ever been done and hopefully not the last.”
2006 Whitney Robison Brighton
2007 Amber Gatewood Brighton &
Whitney Malone Munford
2008 Cali Overbeck Munford
2009 Michele Brown Millington
2010 Crystal Williams Munford
2011 Britt Sanford Brighton
2012 Julanne McCommon TRA
2013 Sami Jo Schulz Munford