Griffin and Nation win ASPIRE awards

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 27, 2023

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Nick Griffin and Taylor Nation will have new awards to place on their mantle after this past weekend as the duo won coach of the year and female athlete of the year, respectively, for their roles with the West Georgia Wolverines last year.

“Working with the kids and their parents and seeing the look on all their faces when they have an opportunity to play sports when maybe they haven’t had that opportunity before is what it’s all about,” Griffin said. “Watching a kid be included is better than any award.”

It has been an exciting rise for both Griffin and Nation, who both joined the Wolverines in 2022. 

Griffin is now a two-time winner at the ASPIRE awards as he took home the volunteer of the year award in 2022.

“To go from volunteer of the year to coach of the year is so humbling,” Griffin said. “I’m so grateful because I never saw myself as coach of the year. I just come in and do the work that needs to be done. I just come out, love on the kids and tell them where to go.”

This year was extra special for Griffin, who was nominated alongside his son Kamari “Tank” Griffin (most improved player of the year).

“When they announced his award, he was leaning over the table looking serious,” Griffin said with a laugh. “They called the other gentleman’s name and he was a little upset and I told him to get nominated as a fourth grader is an honor. Most of the kids nominated were in high school and the one that won was a senior.”

Griffin means a lot to all the Wolverine athletes including Nation.

“I thought he was going to win, but I had no clue that I would,” Nation said. “He is a really good coach and he has all the qualities that you need to win it.”

For Nation, it was a shock to take home the win. But the LaGrange High junior has made a ton of progress over the last year. 

“I was just talking to coach (Jacob) Roche the other day about how far she has come since she started,” Griffin said. “She has always come to practice, never misses one outside of softball season. She comes to all our open gyms. She is just an amazing kid and so competitive. I love her drive.”

The progress that athletes on the court make is special, but the leaps they make off the court are what it is all about for Griffin.

“Since starting with the Wolverines my son is more serious about helping others,” Griffin said. “He has learned to value life in a different way. Nobody on this team makes excuses, and he has learned to rise to the challenge and not get so upset when things don’t go his way.”

Griffin has also found the Wolverines have helped him develop as a coach. Now, Griffin finds himself being more understanding and patient with his middle school football players at Gardner Newman, where he serves as an assistant coach.

Nation has forged some new friendships through the Wolverines, including one with Blaklea Speer, who like Nation plays softball, but Spears suits up in the red and black of the Cavaliers. 

“I have definitely made a lot of new friendships and it has made me realize we are unique in our own way and play sports together,” Nation said.

Nation has also found herself making a strong connection with ASPIRE awards guest speaker Aaron Golub, who became the first legally blind player to play in college football when he suited up for Tulane.

“It is really cool that he is legally blind like me and talked about how he always wanted college coaches to give him a chance and finally somebody gave him a chance,” Nation said. “We talked afterward too.”

The Wolverines will be starting the 2023-24 basketball season in early November, a prospect that delights Nation as she transitions over to the Wolverines after her softball season ended with the Grangers. 

While the 2024 ASPIRE awards are still a long way off, do not be surprised to see even more West Georgia Wolverines at the ceremony next year.

“Hopefully I can go back next year, but I don’t want to get nominated for the same award,” Nation said with a chuckle. 

Griffin is the self-proclaimed recruiting coordinator for the Wolverines and plans to bring even more talented athletes into the fold in the coming weeks and months.