Sept. 28, 2005
Crossing the finish line might seem like the signal to finally stop — but Alice Bennett Sims never did. It has been over 20 years since the seven-time All-American sprinter hung up her cleats at Florida State University, yet through her dedicated philanthropic and social work she has never quit “running.”
Katherine “Kitty” Blood Hoffman roamed the FSU campus, formerly known as the Florida State College for Women, in the early 1930s when the airwaves blasted tales of the Great Depression and Babe Ruth. She captained the volleyball and baseball “Even” teams and was the student body president. Seventy years later, she continues to lead.
Sims (class of ’84) and Hoffman (class of ’36) will be honored as “Champions Beyond the Game” on Sunday, October 2nd at the Committee of Thirty’s annual brunch at the University Center to “honor the past, celebrate the present and promote the future” of women’s athletics at Florida State University.
Meet Alice Sims
Seminoles.com had the opportunity to visit with Alice Sims this week and we asked her a variety of questions on topics ranging from track and field to football. Her family is very athletic as husband Ernie Sims, Jr., was himself a star football player at Florida State where the couple met and married over 20 years ago. One of her children, Ernie Sims, III, is a standout linebacker on the FSU football team and her other son, Marcus, is a senior at North Florida High School in Tallahassee, where he is successful in several sports.
Seminoles.com: What does it mean to you to be honored as a “Champion Beyond the Game?”
AS: I think it means going beyond the call of duty and beyond your college experience. It means touching lives in a positive way and effecting people who may have not had the opportunities you had. It’s being able to pass on your character, life skills and different experiences you have encountered during your life to other people so they can also be successful in life.
Seminoles.com: And speaking of passing on your skills to other people. Your sons Ernie and Marcus (senior high school standout) are amazing athletes in their own right. Talk about how you’ve influenced their careers.
AS: I hope I have been an impact on Ernie and Marcus’ life. I really give God all the praise because we have really been blessed to have good boys. They are obedient and have been the type of kids any parent would want to have. I just thank God that Ernie and Marcus have been able to display their skills in a positive way.
Seminoles.com: You are a seven-time All-American in track. Talk about you days here at Florida State.
AS: That really was an exciting time especially when I think about the people I competed with. Some of those women went on and competed in the Olympics, so it’s just awesome that I was able to hang with those ladies. Back in the early 1980s women’s track and field at Florida State was just beginning to land on the map so it was a special time. I think back to my first national championship on that relay team. I can feel it right now when Randy Givens crossed that finish line after I passed her the baton…I was just ecstatic. It’s an experience I will always remember because it’s just a wonderful feeling and accomplishment.
Seminoles.com: Do you share those experiences with your sons?
AS: Oh yes, all the time. What we do is tell them there are bumps along the road but what you have to do is remain focused. I share with them the time when went to California to compete and Marita Payne and I dropped the baton. That was the worst feeling I think I ever had in my career. But we came back the next week and were able to pick ourselves up and become No. 1 in America again. My husband I share with them that you are going to have trials and tribulations but you keep your eyes focused on your goal. And your goal is to cross that finish line.
Seminoles.com: What led you to Florida State?
AS: Actually a few of my friends came to Florida State. I was actually recruited in basketball…I had several basketball scholarships. When I came to Tallahassee I was actually going to attend Florida A&M University but something happened and I decided to walk on with the track team at Florida State my freshman year and by my sophomore year I earned a scholarship.
Seminoles.com: What do you hope to convey on Sunday at the Champions Beyond The Game brunch?
AS: I think the main thing I want to convey is growing up in a small country town in Sanford, Fla., I lived in an era where a lot of people didn’t think I could succeed after some real tragedy in my life. My mother passed of cancer when I was a junior in high school and I was determined I was going to succeed in life. When I came to Florida State succeeding was my determination. What I want to pass on to other student-athletes is the attitude that you can succeed in whatever you want to no matter how many odds are against you. No matter how you think you may not make it, you can succeed as long as you set goals. Once you reach your goals you should pass the baton of success on to others. That is the one thing I truly believe in: passing the baton.
Seminoles.com: How good does it feel to have a son that is basically a star on the Florida State football team?
AS: It is a really good feeling. When Ernie was in high school he received a lot of recognition as the top recruit in the country. Many times he was under a lot of pressure to do well. But it’s a great feeling to know that your child has made it to that level and my encouragement always to him is “Don’t let your head get too big.” We have always relayed to him that “you take it, but you remain humble. Whatever talents or whatever abilities you have, they are God-given. He put you there, but he can also bring you down.” So, we always encourage him to keep his head right and keep the right attitude.
Seminoles.com: Has Ernie ever seen video from your track days?
AS: No. I’ve tried to find tapes everywhere but I haven’t been able to find any video footage of it. But they have seen me run though. Currently I run track. I run track every year in a track meet.
So they’ve only seen photos of you from Florida State? Is that something you wish they could have seen?
AS: Yes. They see their daddy. We have video footage of him here at Florida State and they love it because they are like “you aren’t holding the ball right!” It’s really neat because they critique him and say “you’re not doing this or that right.” It’s really fun. But to answer your question, I think that would really be neat if they could see footage of me running and competing in a track meet. I have just not been able to locate anything.
Seminoles.com: Have you ever raced them?
AS: Yes, when Ernie was like eight! (laughs). As he got older I was like, “there is no way I can beat him!”
Seminoles.com: But wouldn’t they be smart enough to know not to beat their mother?
AS: I don’t know about Ernie…he doesn’t like to lose. Maybe so. But when they were younger we used to run around a lot but when he turned about 10 he was really fast.
Seminoles.com: Is there more pressure being the mother of an athlete then being one yourself as far as not having control over certain things that go on?
AS: I would say yes. Of course all of you have mothers and you know that things affect a mom more than a dad. A lot of the pressure put on Ernie…I can kind of feel the weight a little bit. So, yes, I would say it’s more pressure being his mom than when I was an athlete.
Seminoles.com: Since you are here in Tallahassee, do you have to kind of keep a bit of distance or how does that relationship work?
AS: Yes, I do. I try to keep my distance because that is one of the things about going to school here…you don’t want to overshadow him too much. I want him to grow up and mature on his own. I think we have a good balance with that. Sometimes he probably thinks I’m too involved though (laughs).
Seminoles.com: Is there ever any kidding around about who is the best athlete in the family?
AS: Not really the best athlete. The thing we really talk about a lot is “where did the boys get their speed from?” That is a big one. We talk about that quite often. A lot of people associate the speed with me but in high school my husband was a very outstanding track athlete. He held the record after he graduated from Tampa Jefferson High School in the 100-yard dash for years which was a 9.7. So we talk about that a lot and who is the fastest. And another thing we talk about is who was bigger in high school between the boys and their dad. Of course the boys were little bigger.
Seminoles.com: When did you and your husband meet?
AS: In 1982, the summer before my senior year. We dated, got engaged and got married in 1983.
Seminoles.com: Obviously so much of this town has changed, this athletic program has changed and the school has changed. What is it like coming back to Florida State for games?
AS: It is an incredible experience and amazing to see how all the facilities have changed. It is great to see but the thing that is so neat is that the same spirit is here. Coach Bowden and Dr. Billie Jones, who called me about this award, are still here. It is a family environment and that’s why I felt good when Ernie decided to come here. I felt like I had a great experience here, so he would have a good experience too.
Seminoles.com: What’s it like watching him play? He’s so different off the field than he is on the field. He has a motor that turns on when playing. What’s it like seeing him down there?
AS: I’m a nervous wreck! Honestly! Ernie does not care about his own body. His goal is to tackle someone no matter what it takes to bring that person down. That is his philosophy and that’s what he is going to do. When Marcus was a freshman and Ernie was a senior they went away to camp. My husband called one day and said, “Alice, we uh have to take Marcus to the emergency room.” My heart just stopped and I asked what happened and he said “Marcus got hit and got a mild concussion.” Angry, I asked who hit him. And he said, “Ernie.” I was thinking “I’m going to kill that boy for hitting my baby.” So most of the times I’m really nervous when I see him go flying across the pile. It’s exciting combined with nerves.
Seminoles.com: Is that the only time Marcus and Ernie ever collided?
AS: You know how a lot of times you have sibling rivalries especially in sports? Well, they don’t do that too much. One time someone said that Marcus was getting pretty big and he thought he could take Ernie. Ernie responded “I don’t think he’d want to try.”
Seminoles.com: Thanks Alice for giving us an insight into your life. We really enjoyed visiting with you. Before we leave we just want to know where this award ranks compared to the other honors you have received in your life.
AS: I’ve gotten a lot of awards but this one is really special. First of all, to receive it at my alma mater is amazing in itself. I’m still trying to take it all in because I still cannot believe it. It’s almost like going to the Olympics or something because it stands out that much and I don’t think it has hit me yet. I believe when I wake up Sunday morning and walk in there it will really hit me and I hope I can compose myself. I just don’t feel worthy of it, that’s the thing. I am thankful though.