By David Gravely
SWT Sports Writer
The story ran on Sunday, and the reactions started coming in immediately. To say that people are talking would be an understatement.
I expected a certain portion of our community to be angered by the article in Sundays edition of The Southwest Times that showed just how poorly our sports teams have done over the past few years, and in a way I was hoping for it. We SHOULD be angry.
I fully expected those who agree with me that we need to make changes would let me know about it. It’s easy to tell somebody you agree with them.
I also fully expected those that disagree with me to sit around in little corners around the county and tell each other those same things that have gotten us where we are today. While no one has come to me in person with these comments yet, here are the main ones I’ve been told about so far.
“Well you know it’s all the coach’s fault. But here we go with them getting a free pass again.”
That statement is incorrect. If we set the standard for the coaches, and they fail to meet the standards in the time set, then yes it would be time to look at making changes. But you have to give that coach the time to put his or her program into effect, and you have to give them the freedom to instill discipline and teamwork in their players. I’ve yet to hear from a single real coach that disagrees with this.
“Well if the coach had control of the kids and did his job, we wouldn’t have to worry about discipline issues on the team.”
The coaches can’t claim control of the kids when there are some parents undermining their every effort. There have been times when I’m pretty sure that the coaches would rather have played in front of an empty set of stands or an empty gym as opposed to the cat-calling groups of negative fans that seem to pop up now. The backstabbing doesn’t stop at the games though, as some parents will wait till they get home to tell their athlete just how incompetent they feel the coach is. Every negative comments erodes that players loyalty to the team and coach just a little further.
“They’re just blaming it on the kids because that’s the easiest thing to do.”
Guess what sports fans, I’m not the one that said it was the kids. As a matter of fact, it was some of those young athletes that pointed out that their teammates are a big part of the problem. The first three messages that I got when the story came out, as a matter of fact, were from PCHS athletes that wanted to thank me for saying what needed to be said. They are tied of losing, and they want to get their pride back. It doesn’t take long to look at www.southwesttimes.com and see that the reaction there is the same.
We DO have some kids that feel like they are entitled. We DO have some kids that need to know that if they don’t work hard, they will fail. We DO have some kids out there that break down team chemistry with their bad attitudes.
What we also have, however, are some good kids who are willing to work hard. We have plenty of kids that are willing to play their part as a member of the team.
If we’re going to be successful, it’s going to take everyone doing their part. We need the right coach, who can motivate the players to perform at their best and leave the egos at the door. We need the right athletes, who are willing to work hard and be “coachable”, and commit to reaching the teams goals.
We need the right administration that will help those coaches and players be successful. I have full confidence that PCHS Principal Mike Myers and the current members of the Pulaski County School Board will make the decisions that need to be made.
We need Anthony Akers and the Pulaski County Recreation Department to be able to help make a change in our athletes mentality from the bottom levels up. We can have leagues that are for fun and participation, but we also need leagues that are for true competition. Those teams need to play tough opponents, and they should only get a trophy if they WIN.
Our middle schools need to be more competitive in more sports. It’s almost June and a new Pulaski Middle School football coach hasn’t even been hired yet. In fact, I don’t even know if that position has been listed yet. That’s not fair to the Orioles. They deserve a chance to win.
My biggest concern is the parents. The only negative comments I’ve been sent so far have been from coaches and parents of athletes and teams that I DIDN’T mention in my last article. With all of the things we had to focus on, I couldn’t believe that NOT being mentioned was the one thing people wanted to write about. That’s just a little bit concerning. I would also suggest that it could be a big part of the problem. Maybe instead of worrying about “me” we need to start worrying a little more about “we”.
Just to clear that up though, I didn’t mention track and field, wrestling, swimming, competition cheer, or the gymnastics team that has long been gone from PCHS. I didn’t mention those because while they have won some titles as a team, most of the time their accomplishments have been recorded as individual wins and losses. I would love to see that change, but right now those numbers haven’t been found. I focused on the main “team” records, and it wasn’t done to slight or belittle anyone.
Since taking the reigns as the sports editor, I have done as much as humanly possible to get exposure for all of our teams. Since January 1, we have ran stories on five different schools in our area, ten if you count Radford University, Virginia Tech, UVA, Bluefield, and Emory and Henry. We have ran stories on six former Cougars, six college commitment signings, four Special Olympic events, and local hunting and fishing. We’ve covered girls and boys sports, with at least two stories for every team at our high school. Normally we cover more games and matches, but with so many teams in action at once it can be hard to get to every game every time.
Since January 1 we have published three Cougar indoor track stories and three Lady Cougar indoor track stories. We have already published four spring Cougar track and four spring Lady Cougar track stories, as well as some senior profile stories on those athletes. We’ve attempted more, but if we can’t get the information it makes it hard to write the stories.
Last weeks article was just the start. There are plenty of questions we need to be asking, and it’s time to start asking them. Clearly, a vast majority of people in Pulaski County want to see our kids find success. They want that success on the athletic fields and in the classroom. Right now we’re just not getting the job done on the field and in the gyms, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get there.
Pulaski County needs to get back to winning, and arguing about who wasn’t mentioned isn’t the right first step in that direction. I welcome all comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s push the people in charge to start moving us in the right direction. Let’s get the PRIDE back in COUGAR PRIDE.