Once a Red Fox, always a Red Fox
By Drake Horton, Contributing Writer
The career of a true, to the core Red Fox is coming to a close at the end of this school year.
As Hartsville athletic director Phyllis Griggs enters her 39 year as an employee with the Darlington County School District the once young girl that graduated from Hartsville High School in 1975 is set to retire as the most successful and decorated athletic director in school history.
A graduate of both Hartsville High School and Winthrop University with a degree in Physical Education and Health, Griggs began her career in 1979 by taking a job in Marlboro County at the Bennettsville Junior High, but that was just for a short period of time.
In 1980 Griggs moved back to her hometown of Hartsville to teach at Hartsville Junior High. While teaching there for two years she also coached varsity tennis and varsity track. She also assisted with the junior high basketball team and varsity basketball team helping Pat Hewitt.
In the 1982-1983 school year Griggs was finally able to join the staff at Hartsville High School and in 2004 she was named the new athletic director for the Red Foxes and from that moment Hartsville saw perhaps its most successful 12-year run in school history.
In the past 12 years the Red Foxes have captured an astonishing six state championships: baseball in 2007, boys’ basketball in 2012 and 2013, softball in 2012 and 2016 and football in 2012.
And if that is not impressive enough, when the Red Foxes were not winning state championships under Griggs they were still playing for them as her department captured another seven lower-state championships; baseball in 2014 and 2015, softball in 2014, 2015 and 2017, and football in 2014 and 2016.
But the accomplishments did not stop there. In 2008 Griggs earned her first region athletic director of the year award and proceeded to add six more between 2011 and 2016 with 2014 being the only year she did not receive the award during that stretch.
“I’m proud of that record, but what I am most proud of is that we have good, working athletic department,” Griggs said. “The coaches are some of the best around. They have a great passion for their sport, they have a great passion for the kids, they put in the time that’s needed and it has made a tremendous difference.”
Griggs, who herself coached for 24 years before putting the whistle down to sit behind a desk, never thought this day would come. It was never her intention for her career to take this path.
That all changed, however, when Dr. Charley Burry, principle of Hartsville High School, came to Griggs about becoming the new athletic director for Hartsville High School.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was going to be A.D.,” Griggs said. “I was very content coaching and then when Dr. Burry approached me and we talked about it and he said ‘I really need you to do it’ and I said I’ll do it. That is sort of how I got here.”
Making the transition from coach and teacher to athletic director did not come without some hesitation. It was not the responsibility of overlooking 30 plus sports instead of just one that scared her, but the idea that she might lose that one-on-one relationship that she was able to have with her players when she was just a coach.
That, however, turned out to not be the case for Griggs, who found that being the athletic director still, to a degree, gave her those same opportunities, just on a broader basis.
When taking the job, Dr. Burry had two major objectives for Griggs to focus on. The first was facilities and the other was to regain the Red Fox spirt in town because, according to her, it had just “plummeted”.
“That was easy for me to do because I played ball here at Hartsville High School and then I coached here for several years so I have a great passion for Hartsville High School,” Griggs said on going out into the community to help revitalize the Red Fox fan base.
But while those were the two goals Dr. Burry wanted Griggs to focus on, and she ultimately accomplished them, she had one special order in mind. That was to make every sport at Hartsville High School feel wanted and known by the athletic director.
The reason behind this goal was because back in 1980 when she was coaching tennis, a non-major sport, she always wanted to the athletic director to come watch, but he was never able to because he was also coaching football.
Making that many rounds, though, especially when Hartsville has as many as 30 varsity sports, can be a daunting task.
“That is a chore and I don’t mean all of the away games, but at least at home,” Griggs said. “A lot people don’t know we have a swim team, but I would try to go to at least one of their swim meets. I would go to the girls’ golf out at the golf course, boys’ golf, go over to cross country. You know, not just attend the major sports.”
Griggs’ time as athletic director though, in her opinion, has come to end. She is ready to move on, give someone else the opportunity to be athletic director, get some rest and more importantly spend some time with family.
“Well I’m tired, I’m not that old, but I’m not a young chick anymore,” Griggs said. “There are things that I am missing out on family wise that I want to be able to do. I’ve got some cousins, they’re like nephews but they’re cousins, they’re starting sports and I would like to watch them.”
When Hartsville’s graduation ceremony comes to a close at the end of the school year Griggs’ career as a Darlington County School District employee and as the Red Foxes athletic director will come to an end.
However just because she will no longer being handling all of the paperwork and the behind the scenes nuances does not mean that her love for the Red Foxes will end.
She was born a Red Fox and will always be a Red Fox. According to her, it’s in the blood.