By the time this afternoon rolls around, Pam Carter will be the only cheer coach in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Carter is one of five coaches to be inducted this morning by the GACA at the Dalton Convention Center during their annual banquet, but when she first got the news she'd receive the honor she thought it was a prank.
"My family and I were sitting around the table at Thanksgiving when I got the call," Carter said. "But then I didn't hear anything for a while, maybe a month or so. My first thought was that it was a joke, and I didn't know anything really.
"After a while I got in contact and it was a surprise. It really was — it was not a joke at all."
The Hall of Fame is housed at the convention center. Joining Carter as inductees at this morning's banquet are football coach Dwight Hochstetler from Bowdon High School; basketball coaches Matt Troutman from Taylor County High School and Aaron "Pete" Geter from Wilkinson County High School; and baseball coach Bobby Howard from Columbus High School.
Carter helped pave the way for the sport of competitive cheerleading throughout her more than 30 years in the school system in Columbus. She spent the majority of her time at Hardaway High School as a special education teacher, and of course, their cheer coach.
Throughout her career she claimed one state championship — 1995 — and several region championships. She was named GACA Coach of the Year 11 times and was inducted into her local Chattahoochee Valley Hall of Fame in 2016.
Though a bout with cancer caused Carter to give up her full-time coaching job in 2005, that doesn't mean she's left the sport. Carter now works as an internship coordinator for Atlanta's branch of Troy University. She has been helping coordinate the Georgia High School Association's cheerleading state championships for more than 20 years, and still does.
"It is very cool," Carter said while looking at her plaque in the convention center. "But I'm a little shocked and intimidated. I've been involved in cheer for so long, but there are so many coaches here that are so great. People who work hard at anything they do in life don't usually remember the hard part. I've watched this sport come so far."
Carter admits there were times she was gone every night as a coach and wasn't always thrilled with how the sport progressed. When she first began coaching, she was given the title of sponsor and received a $250 stipend for the entire year.
Cheerleading became a sanctioned sport by the GHSA in 1994, which was a long time coming for Carter after beginning her career in the late 1970s.
"I just loved the kids," she said. "Influencing their lives was something I loved and it did eventually grow pretty quickly."
Cheerleading also gave Carter an unexpected bonus to travel the country and world, bringing teams to perform at many events including bowl games and the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
One day, Carter hopes to say that she isn't the only cheer coach helping line the walls of the convention center, highlighting the true determination the competitive sport has to offer.
"It warms my heart when athletes come up to me to thank me," she said. "But it just represents whoever coached them. That's what I try to think about. There are a lot of good cheer coaches across the state that sacrifice a lot of time to help these kids."
Though she said she is still surprised and honored to be inducted, Carter said she'll do the best to enjoy the weekend.
"I'm not a big partier, but I can do a good pep rally," she said laughing.