Shankle, Alston honored as sports ambassadors
A firefighter who mentors those climbing the public-safety ranks and a baseball coach with an old-school approach each received a Hugo Germino Sports Ambassador Award from the Durham Sports Club at Croasdaile Country Club on Wednesday.
Durham Sports Club vice president Albert Long presented time-clock keepsakes to Willie Alston, a Durham fire marshal, and Voyager baseball coach Pete Shankle for embodying what the award’s namesake represented.
Germino, the late Durham Sun sports editor, went about promoting, coaching and working with young people within the context of sports without recognition, Long said.
That’s what Alston is doing when refurbishing the torch that he actually created for the Durham Special Olympics. Alston really gets into the games, even carrying the torch yet making sure the special athletes know that it’s all about them.
“He’s always making sure that they are the star in that torch run,” said Sarah Hogan, recreation manager for special programs and inclusion for Durham Parks and Recreation. “He’s very, very good with kids.”
Alston has a nice touch with adults, as well, mentoring budding firefighters the way he brought along Shelia Vitalis, a Durham fire marshal who made captain.
“Thank you for teaching me to be confident,” Vitalis said to Alston during the presentation.
Alston, who also helps with the Durham Senior Games, said he established B+ Football, a program that pays for football shoes and sports physicals for youths, including high school athletes.
The Special Olympics take place on Fridays and has delayed beach trips for Alston and his wife, whom he thanked for being patient.
Shankle, executive director of the N.C. Coaches Association, coached baseball at Southern and Northern high schools before taking over a Voyager team that in 2012 played for a state championship, falling to South Stanly. At the time, Voyager Academy only had freshmen and sophomores.
Former Southern football coach and athletics director Chip Gill recalled joining the school in 1985 and hearing about one of the Spartans’ assistant football coaches who was good and destined to be great. That assistant coach was Shankle, and Gill made him Southern’s defensive coordinator.
Gill said he trusted Shankle so much that he never asked him what he’d have Southern doing on defense, fully confident that the Spartans would be ready to stop the opposing offense.
Shankle thanked his family members and supporters who were gathered in the banquet room, allowing his body of work, and Gill, to speak for him.
“My observation of Pete is he takes average players and makes ’em good, and he takes good players and makes ’em great,” Gill said.
Shankle is one of those coaches who still teaches players about sportsmanship, teamwork and citizenship, the sort of character traits that future leaders need to learn, Gill said.
“We’re old-school,” Gill said. “We teach more than just winning or losing. It concerns me today that some of our young coaches are all concerned about winning or losing. Sometimes I get a little bit worried about some of the young coaches I see out there today, but thank goodness we’ve still got a few like Pete Shankle.”
NOTES — Voyager athletics director Mike Germino, Hugo Germino’s grandson, was at Croasdaile to support Shankle. ... Durham Sports Club program chairman Tommy Hunt took a trip down memory lane and recalled the story that Hugo Germino wrote about him when he began officiating football games in the Atlantic Coast Conference. “Hugo never wrote anything bad about anybody,” Hunt said. “He wrote good things about good people.”