Introducing the 2024 Orange Observer Sports Awards

The Observer is excited to roll out a new local annual sports awards series to highlight the area’s most deserving athletes, coaches and teams.

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The 2023-24 sports season was one to remember in West Orange and Southwest Orange. The year was punctuated with an array of championships won, college scholarships earned and stories that inspired us to reach for the stars in the midst of adversity.   

Although summer break has arrived, we want to make sure that this historic year doesn’t fade into the blistering Florida sun without giving the area’s most deserving athletes, coaches, teams and their stories the proper recognition.

So today, I’m thrilled to announce the 2024 Orange Observer Sports Awards. 

With 10 total awards— ranging from the expected athlete of the year awards to more unique honors; such as the Ad Astra Award or the Teammate of the Year Award — the top honor of the bunch is our Sportsperson of the Year award. 

We are accepting nominations for each of the 10 awards from the public. 

That includes everyone from school administrators, parents, fans, coaches, teammates and really anyone who knows of a team, coach or player who deserves the recognition.

Below is a short description of each of this year’s honors. 

2024 Orange Observer Sports Awards

Sportsperson of the Year

The Sportsperson of the Year award takes inspiration from the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which recognizes a player’s excellence on and off the field.

This award aims to do the same by honoring a student-athlete who is a force on the field of play, in the classroom and in their local community. As a company, the Observer embraces the ideals of hard work, a high standard of performance and the knowledge that what we do can make a difference in the local community. 

Nominees for this award should exemplify those ideals through high-level performance in sport, academic accolades and a proven passion for making a difference in the lives of their neighbors.  

Male & Female Athletes of the Year

Superior athletic achievement is the first and highest criterion for the Male and Female Athletes of the Year Awards. Both the male and female individual winners of this award will exemplify this high level of athletic excellence through a stack of individual accolades, impressive statistics, projection to the next level of their sport and most importantly their contribution to winning. 

Male Sport & Female Sport Coaches of the Year

Coaches do more than dial up plays, build systems and lead their teams to victory. They are molders of people and have the ability to impact their athletes in a unique way. 

The winners of these awards will have made their presence known on the field and their positive impact felt in the lives of the young people they lead. 

Assistant Coach of the Year

No person is an island, and the same can be said for a coach. Lucky for most of them, there’s usually an assistant coach or two helping manage the rigors that come from the profession. 

A good assistant coach can wear many hats, but ultimately the best assistants always have a few themes in common. First, they understand, communicate and apply the head coach’s philosophies to his or her players effectively. Another common thread among elite assistants is to be an expert on his or her team’s identity. The last, and one of the most important qualities of an assistant coach, is earning your head coach’s trust enough to be able to tell them they are wrong — when appropriate, of course. 

The winner of the Assistant Coach of the Year Award will be a coach who can expertly navigate those three themes and help his team to victory. 

Ad Astra Award

At the Observer, one of our company sayings is, “Per ardua, ad astra” — Latin for, “By struggle, to the stars.” 

As such, this award celebrates a member of the area’s sporting community who doesn’t let the constraints or obstacles of their surrounding world limit their ambition or motivation.

Those who capture the Ad Astra ethos look beyond our realm and push themselves past the limit of what most deem possible, all in a glorious pursuit of reaching the stars.

Whether it be a story of perseverance, determination or just a can’t-keep-me-down spirit, the winner of the Ad Astra Award can only be described as an unstoppable train of a person fueled by a pure force of will. 

Teammate of the Year

Being a good teammate isn’t about clapping the loudest or giving out the most high-fives. Rather, it is about sacrificing for the greater good of the team. It’s about holding your team accountable. It’s about encouraging one another, doing everything with 100% effort and ultimately doing all you can to help put your team and teammates into the best possible situation.

The winner of the Teammate of the Year Award may not be a household name — or it can even be someone who didn’t step foot on the field of play. It also could be a star player who stepped up to guide his team to victory or the steady Eddie who always kept the team calm in high-pressure moments. 

This award’s core is simple: The winner will have often and always put the team before themselves.

Male & Female Teams of the Year

From dominant programs continuing their dynasty to Cinderella-like teams making unexpected and heart-warming runs to the team that’s been knocking on the door for years that finally brings out the sledgehammer and busts it open, the area has seen some amazing runs for its teams. 

The essence of the Team of the Year award is about doing the improbable, it’s about making history, and it’s about winning — but on their own terms. 

Sam Albuquerque is the Sports Editor for the Orange Observer. Please contact him with story ideas, results and statistics.

Email[email protected]





Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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