Max Foster is a well-known figure in sports and education circles throughout the Rim Country and — if you encounter any old Arizona high school coaches, his reputation is even more far reaching.
The Mogollon Sporting Association awarded Foster, the Payson Roundup’s former sports editor and a retired Payson Unified School District educator and coach, its prestigious Legacy Award at a ceremony and banquet Saturday, May 3. He joins a handful of similarly honored Rim Country individuals including Ted Pettet, Dennis Pirch, Gary Barcom, George Randall and Del Newland.
Foster retired in 2004 after 37 years in public education. He spent the majority of that time (the final 20 years) in the Payson Unified School District teaching eighth-grade math courses at Rim Country Middle School. The Central Arizona Middle Level Education Association recognized his work as a teacher when he was named 2002 Educator of the Year.
While he did great things in the classroom over the years, his real love was coaching. In 1994, he founded the Rim Country Middle School tackle football program and coached three of the teams to undefeated White Mountain League Championships.
In football at Payson High School, he served several stints as offensive and defensive line coach, junior varsity coach and head coach. In 1992, he was chosen to coach the North team in the Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game. Foster also coached both boys and girls junior varsity basketball at Payson High and was a varsity assistant.
Even though he left coaching, sports was never far from his mind — he worked 27 years as the sports editor and as a news reporter at the Roundup before retiring in August 2013.
He was the lead reporter on some of the paper’s biggest stories including the Dude and Horton Creek fires, the war on illegal marijuana grows in the Tonto and Coconino national forests, the trailside slaying of Payson man Grant Kuenzli and the trial and sentencing of an impaired driver who killed three members of a Payson family in a tragic auto accident on Beeline.
At the Roundup he won more than 25 awards in Arizona Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest for best sports story, best sports column, best sports beat coverage and best news story.
Among his many ANA state contest first places was an article about the Mogollon Sporting Association.
In 1996, Wrestling USA named him the National Sportswriter of the Year First Runner-up.
Over the years, Max also received several Arizona Press Club awards for his sports writing including one about the rejuvenation of Fossil Creek.
The Tonto Apache Tribe Track and Field Team, Tonto Rim Sports Club, the Payson Ranger District and Northern Arizona Gila County Special Olympics have also recognized Foster for his contributions through his work as a journalist.
The mission of the MSA is to enhance wildlife, environment, education and the economy of the Rim Country by supporting local quality game management and the area’s businesses.
Many of those businesses stepped up to support the MSA at the May 3 event, contributing thousands of dollars in contributions and prize donations for the evening’s multiple raffles and drawings.