By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Member of three hall of fames, winningest volleyball coach in Brighton history or winner of several coaching awards, Max Griffith’s said her legacy will be defended by her student/athletes.
The reason for the moments of reflection for the Walton, N.Y. native, Griffith announced earlier this school year she will be retiring. The time to step away came after 37 years in the education field and stops throughout Tipton County at Munford Middle, Crestview Middle and then Brighton High School.
Griffith, 62, was a standout in volleyball and basketball during her prep years. She attended Lambuth University to play both sports just before the United States passed Title IX giving girls an equal playing field for athletic scholarships.
Griffith said once Title IX passed in June 1972 and she entered the education/coaching field, she wanted to give girls the opportunity she missed out on.
Meanwhile Griffith was selected in the Lambuth Athletic Hall of Fame, the New York State High School Athletic Hall of Fame and even the Tennessee Horseshoes Hall of Fame alongside her sister Marline Ray.
The girl who grew up about 40 miles from Cooperstown was building a new hall of fame resume as a coach. After starting her education career in Louisiana, Griffith arrived in Tennessee teaching in Fayette County.
Then she meet her husband and Tipton County native Eddie. They had a daughter on the way while Griffith worked at Munford Middle.
Shack arrived and years later she played for her mom at Brighton High School.
“We had a good time,” Max recalled. “Her senior year was when I had all those girls, Cierra Boyce, Shack, Jennifer Wildes, Hillary Hill, Whitney Robinson, Holly Buchanan, all those athletes.
“It was like family,” she continued. “We were a family. Those girls hung around together and did things together. They weren’t jealous of one another. They just played together.”
Griffith and her staff of sister Marline and nephew W.W. Ray racked up a record of 151-36 from 2003-09. The Lady Cardinal Volleyball program became a regular to Regionals while winning district championships.
Griffith said there were several great players during that span and a few standouts.
“Lisa (Sellers), gosh she was dynamite,” she said. “And she went on to play at Bethel. She graduated from that school.”
Sellers was a multiple sport standout at Brighton like Shack. Griffith’s daughter was a star pitcher in softball alongside Whitni Smith.
Max said watching players like Sellers, Smith, Robinson and her daughter motivated her to get them to the next level.
“We were able to help them on their college expense,” she said. “I think that means a lot. They became good enough to receive that. Without that extra high level of playing, they wouldn’t have been noticed.”
Although several of her former Lady Cardinals now in the professional world, including Shack as a teacher at Brighton Middle, Griffith acknowledged she does have some regrets.
“I just wanted to get that Sub-State to reach State,” she said. “We went down a couple of time to Bartlett or Arlington. We were always on the brink.”
Despite not reaching State in volleyball, Griffith said her ultimate prize was the success of her student/athletes.
“I’m going to miss the students,” she said. “I taught Algebra for years. The big competitiveness was to pass the Gateway back then. I had the eighth grade and almost all of them would pass it.”
Griffith reached her goal of helping girls earn athletic scholarships through academics and hard work on the court. Maybe some of those players will end up in a Hall of Fame one day like Griffith.
Her advice to reach one Hall of Fame is, “You stay humble, you work hard and you dedicate yourself and people will notice.”
As she exits from her teaching/coaching career, Griffith said she learned a few lessons from her Brighton Volleyball teams.
“I never gave up on any of it,” she concluded. “Whoever we played, if they came in 6-feet and we weren’t that height. We still played. Like Arlington, they were 6’1, 6’2 and just kept going. And we beat them in 5 games. I did have some scrappy teams. It was great.”