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AJ's Tyler deserves elite hall status

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By The Staff

Andrew Jackson High School is on the verge of its 41st birthday and the school has had its share of moments to celebrate in 40 years serving the communities of Kershaw, Heath Springs and Flat Creek.

AJ has fashioned a reputation as a school, which supports its athletic teams no matter the record or score. The Vols play hard to the final whistle and give it their best shot.

Much of that success stems from the foundation built in its early days when the three aforementioned schools along with Hillside High, the former all-black school in that area, came together as one school.

The Vols have been blessed with their share of quality coaches during that span.

One which comes to mind is former Lady Volunteers’ volleyball coach Barbara Tyler.

Tyler, a Camden native, was recently honored by the S.C. Coaches Association as one of its newest hall of fame members.

Tyler, who coached and taught at AJ for 31 of her 33 years in education, is most deserving.

She holds the distinction of guiding AJ to its first-ever state championship, the 1971 Class AAA state basketball crown. AJ, in those years, was a Class AAA Lower State school. The Lady Vols won the Lower State title, defeating Hanahan and then toppled Travelers Rest from the Greenville area for the state title.

That coveted crown came in the winter of 1971, which was AJ’s second year of existence.

Tyler’s accomplishment was quite a feat and set the standard for future state titles, but she was only getting started.

She coached five different sports at AJ, starting the school’s volleyball and softball programs.

She had her share of success in each sport, but volleyball was where she made her biggest mark. Her career mark in volleyball featured a 516-281 record, two state titles – 1983 and 1991, two state runners-up – 1979 and 1982, 17 region titles and 22 playoff bids. Her 516 wins rank her eighth in career victories in the Palmetto State volleyball.

She was the region volleyball coach of year 17 times and coached in the annual North-South All-Star volleyball match four times.

Tyler also served as a basketball assistant to former AJ coach Marti Tiller and helped guide the Lady Vols to a pair of state titles on the hardwood.

Ironically, Tyler said she didn’t consider a coaching career in her early plans after finishing Lander.

She considered a future working with a parks and recreation program, but just to have something to fall back on she earned her teaching degree.

The rest is history as Tyler took a job at Cheraw and coached and taught one year before moving to Hartsville. She spent a year in Hartsville before moving to AJ.

The rest is history, with her share of bright moments in “Big Orange Country.”

“Things happen and you change footsteps and you end up staying there,” she said. “It becomes your life and you try to do the best you can.”

Tyler’s proud moment, one most deserved, was extra special.

When she was inducted late last month, Tyler joined a hall which included her former basketball coach at Camden, Hulan “Pop” Small, a 2001 inductee.

Small led Camden to a state crown in Tyler’s sophomore year at Camden, but he died the next fall.

Small’s successful coaching style had an impact on Tyler.

“He taught me some of the basics of coaching which I used in my career,” she said.

Those valuable traits obviously stayed with Tyler a long time – all the way to the S.C. Coaches Association Hall Fame.