From coaching to educating to refereeing, Mary Slaughter always seems to find success
Words by Terrell Manasco | Images by Blakeney Clouse
When Mary Slaughter was in eighth grade at Carbon Hill Jr. High, a teacher gave her some career advice: “Choose something you can do well, and that you will enjoy doing for the rest of your life.”
The seventh of eleven children, Mary grew up in a family of athletes who excelled in every sport. Gifted in girls’ volleyball, basketball, softball, and cheerleading, it only made sense to base her career around those natural skills. “I realized, I’m a pretty good ball player,” Mary says from her office at the Walker County Board of Education. “I knew I wanted to coach but in order to coach, you had to be a teacher.”
By Mary’s senior year, her older sister was playing softball on scholarship at Brewer State Community College (Bevill-Fayette), and Mary knew she would follow that same path. Before the end of the school year, she was offered a slow-pitch softball scholarship. “I got to play alongside my sister for a year in college,” Mary says. “I wanted to go to Bevill, to not only be successful in life, but to follow in the footsteps of my sisters.”
After graduating with an Associate in Science degree, Mary attended Mobile College (University of Mobile), this time on a fast-pitch scholarship, earning her bachelor’s degree in health and physical education.
Her plan was to return to Mobile to coach and teach school, but just before school started, she was offered a job at Carbon Hill Jr. High, teaching physical education. In addition to coaching girls’ volleyball, basketball, softball and cheerleading, Mary served as director of Girls’ Incorporated of Central Alabama (Girls’ Inc.) from 1995-2002.
From there she transitioned to Carbon Hill High School, serving as girls’ athletic director, as well as head varsity girls’ volleyball and softball coach. Under her guidance, the Lady Bulldogs won numerous titles and championships. She was named Daily Mountain Eagle Volleyball Coach of the Year three times, and Softball Coach of the Year twice. “We had some very successful years at Carbon Hill,” Mary says. “We got knocked out of going to the playoffs by Briarwood Christian School. The rest of the years, we were always at the Elite Eight State. I wanted the kids to know how good they were and how good they could be.”
David Beason was principal of Carbon Hill Jr. High when Mary was in the eighth grade. He has since become her mentor and personal friend. After earning her Master’s in Educational Leadership degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2002, Mary was recommended by Beason for a position at Parrish High School, where he was principal. His recommendation led to her serving six years as assistant principal and two as principal.
“I believe God places people in your life for one of two reasons— to be a blessing, or a lesson,” Mary says. “Mr. Beason was my blessing. I owe him great thanks for helping me get to where I am today.”
Where she is today is, in a word, busy. Mary is now the Director of Student Assessments and Guidance Counseling with the Walker County Board of Education, a position she has held since 2009. She also works with numerous other organizations, including serving on the Walker County Department of Human Resources Board of Directors.
From Mary’s childhood on up, family has always been the center of her life. Away from the office, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Steven, and their two sons, Mayson, 16, and Keenan (KJ), 8. She is still close to her brothers and sisters as well. Each year after attending New Year’s Eve church services together, they gather at their mother’s house to spend the night.
Although Mary doesn’t play sports much anymore, she hasn’t exactly left it behind. She and her younger brother, Brian McCollum, both devote time each month as referees, sometimes at the same game. “I started officiating in the summer of 1992,” Mary says. “I took a little break when I became an administrator, but I came back a couple of years ago.”
It may sound odd, but Mary says she finds officiating very relaxing. However, she admits it’s not for the timid. “You really have to go out there with a thick skin and definitely have confidence,” she says. “You have to stand by that call. My intent as an official is to always make the right call and to do the best job I can do.”
“I’ve always felt that playing ball wasn’t just about ball, it’s about life,” Mary adds.“I’m a team player. I’m all about us all working together as a team. That’s the only way I know how to operate.”
You can’t argue with success. 78