Lack of loyalty a big problem in the sports world

view from the sidelines mugBy DAVID GRAVELY, SWT Sports Writer

For some reason, the grass often time seems greener on the other side of the fence.  In some cases, people think it’s greener on the other side of the bridge.

Pulaski County has a problem that affects many localities, and while it started out with just a few students involved here and there, it has grown over the years.

Just to be up front, I know there will be some who are offended by this article, but I sincerely want to open the subject up for discussion, and I think it’s important to Pulaski County athletically as our programs work to build back up.  Also, just to be clear, when I talk about transfers here I am not talking about a student who’s family makes a physical move from our area into another area.

I have a pretty strong opinion about transfers, but also realize that like anything else there are exceptions.

I was told recently by a school official that there are currently over 240 students grade K-12 who live within the boundaries of Pulaski County that are enrolled in schools outside of Pulaski County, most of them in Radford City or Montgomery County schools.

That’s 240 plus students who should be listed in the rolls of schools that feed Pulaski County High School.  Now while not all of those students would be athletes, that’s also 240 plus students who, if enrolled in Pulaski County Schools, would be counted towards state and federal money received for education.  More students equals more money.

I’m going to use Pulaski and Radford as an example because to be honest it’s the one that this most applies to.

I personally know of several students who live within the boundaries of Pulaski County that attend Radford schools.  I’m sure that somewhere along the line, there have been a few that lived in Radford that went to Pulaski County schools.

For some, it’s a matter of convenience.  They live in a part of Fairlawn where they can physically see Radford High School from their front doors.  Rather than have their kids ride the bus all the way to Dublin MIddle School or the high school, they send them two minutes away to Radford.  I get it, it’s close.  I don’t like it, but it’s understandable.

Sometimes the parents work in Radford or for the Radford schools.  The ability to bring the student to school with you when you comes to work would be a convenient thing as well.  You’re there if your student has a problem during the day, and you can spend some time with them on the way back and forth.  Again, I don’t like it, but it’s understandable.

Some parents send their students to another school thinking that they will gain an academic advantage.  Some send their students to another school because they feel like they need a “fresh start”.

All of these parents have the right to do as they wish with their students, but what kind of message do we send when we in effect “give up” on Pulaski County.

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I think parents, specifically parents of athletes, can and do cause a lot of problems for athletes.

Many student/athletes have told me over the years that there are times when they wish that the people in the stands would just stop comparing them to teams from the past and let them be the best they can be NOW.  Too many parents and fans are stuck on having everything just like it was “back when we played” and say that if it’s not then it’s not fun.

You know what I think is fun?  Winning.  Winning is fun.

Do we just throw away our history?  Absolutely not, but if we spend a decade telling our kids that when they take the field as Cougars that they won’t be as tough as when we played, then they won’t.

The reason great coaches of the past have been great is because they were allowed to work their athletes hard and do the job the way they saw fit.  Why not just let the guy or gal who was hired as the head coach do his or her job?  If they do it well, then everything will be fine.  If they don’t, after a reasonable amount of time, then they’ll be replaced and the next coach will get that chance.

“Daddy ball” has cost us countless games, coaches, and athletes over the years.  “Daddy” coached rec league for a few years, so he knows what’s best for the middle school or high school team now.  If the coach would just ask him, he could help save the day.  After all, if they would just put HIS kid in, we would certainly go to State.  “Mommy and Daddy” need to get out of the locker rooms and off the sidelines.

In some of these cases, “Daddy” or “Mommy” are the reason the student transfers.  They tell their student that they’ll have a better chance of playing somewhere else, or that they’ll have a better chance of winning a championship somewhere else.  I’ve even seen cases where a family will have one student go to one school and one student go to another.

The question is pretty simple:  Instead of leaving for what looks like greener pastures, why not work to make Pulaski County a better place?

The answer is because it’s usually easier to simply move on to the next thing than it is to be LOYAL to your hometown and your school.

It’s my opinion that if you live in Pulaski County, attend school at and play sports for Pulaski County.  If you live somewhere else, remove Pulaski County in the previous sentence and insert your school’s name.

We need loyalty to Pulaski County by parents and students.  Not just wearing a shirt on game day or cheering when a team takes the field or court, but doing things to make Pulaski better.  We need parents who understand that while losing a game once and a while is not the end of the world, it’s much better to win.  We need parents that understand that to get those wins, it takes hard work and dedication, not just yelling at the coach or bashing him on an internet message board.  We need less finger pointers and more hard workers.

Speaking of finger pointing, I’ll also point the inquiring finger back at those who are in charge here:  the coaches and administrators.

For the coaches the task is simple, win.  Please take note of the fact that I typed that with my tongue in my cheek and a grin on my face.

Winning at Pulaski County is not an easy thing.  You start the season off with a target on your back every year.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been good for the past few years or not.  People don’t care how they beat Pulaski County, they just want to be able to say they beat Pulaski County.

As for the administrators, It’s up to them to make Pulaski County the kind of home and school system that people don’t WANT to leave.  I think it’s pretty clear that there are some changes coming, and when you step back and look at them realistically there are plenty of good things on the horizon.  I don’t know what the right answer is for the middle school situation, but it is good to see that we are at least addressing it now instead of trying to put it off.  We need the school administration to be loyal enough to our schools, students, and county that they make the best decisions possible.  I think the current administration is working to do that now.

The administration is also responsible to hire the best and most qualified coaches to lead our student/athletes, and to provide them with the best possible conditions to be successful.  We can’t ask our coaches to win if we don’t give them to tools to do so.  That includes assistant coaches that are qualified to coach their particular sport, and giving the head coach the freedom to put their system into place and then either succeed or fail with it.  If they succeed, then reward them.  If they fail, then takes steps to fix it.

So I’ve pointed out the players, the parents, the coaches, and the administration.  In closing, I’ll point the finger back at myself.

The Southwest Times has, at times, been accused of being biased towards Pulaski County.  At this point, I’m sure some of you are sitting there with one raised eyebrow thinking, “Huh?  Really?”

With very few exceptions, our sports section will continue to focus on what’s best for Pulaski County.  At times there will be stories from Virginia Tech, UVA, or Radford University.  We’ve also started to get more coverage of our New River Community College teams.  There may even be times when we run stories on national stories like the Superbowl, the Daytona 500, or the World Series.  Don’t be surprised, however, if you pick up a copy of our paper after Superbowl Sunday and instead of reading about Peyton Manning or the Seahawks you read about one of our middle school teams or a rec league game.

In other words, we will continue to promote those things that promote Pulaski County.  If it’s not about Pulaski County teams, Pulaski County athletes, or Pulaski County events that are loyal to Pulaski County and making it better, there will be a good chance that it won’t run in our print edition.

I’ve seen the logo that Anthony Akers has been using for some of the things he does in the school system and rec system that proclaims “Pulaski County Proud!”  The bottom line of that graphic says “Our heritage.  Our hope.  Our home.”

Amen brother.  Amen.




41 Responses to Lack of loyalty a big problem in the sports world

  1. pc wrestling fan

    February 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    We talk about change in coaches, their methods, the athletes, their work ethic and abilities, etc. I’m not sure what should be done in wrestling. Last year, about 5-6 Cougars went to the state championship. This year, they laid a goose egg and only two squeaked in as All-Regional. Then we hear the coach gets kicked out at the regional championship. Now the athletes have no guidance from their head coach in the most important matches of their life.

    What’s the problem (s)? What’s the solution? Has the coaching changed? Most of the athletes were returning so the experience was there. Did they not practice enough, wrestle against the right competition, or not receive enough conditioning?

    It’s a shame for the seniors to go out this way. It makes us wrestling fans wonder what the future is for this sport at PCHS. I hope Cougar Dave can get to the bottom of this and ask the tough questions. Perhaps he could interview both the coach and the wrestlers, especially the seniors who cannot be punished for telling it like it is.

  2. Laura Thompson/wrestling

    February 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    I will agree it is sad that the Seniors went out like that. My son included. When you talk about events please get the facts straight. Coach Butler was not thrown out of the meet or strom out. It was one of the wrestles parents. I hope that next year all you “wrestling fans” will volunteer your time and show Butler what he has been doing wrong all these years. Laura Thompson wrestling mother

  3. Agree with Laura

    February 25, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Getting the facts straight is the first step here. Coach Butler was not thrown out, it was one of the assistants. As with every coach, the head coach gets frustrated with the referring at times, but I have never seen Coach Butler lose his temper as was suggested in these comments.
    It was sad to see no one qualify for the state tournament. But as I looked at the region competition they had to face, I was not shocked. Northern Virginia is quickly becoming the dominate part of the state when it comes to wrestling. If you look, that’s what the Pulaski guys were wrestling. A lot of Northern Va. athletes. In fact, I will go on record as saying this is much tougher competition than what they faced with the old Region 4. Not a lot of cupcakes to face in this region now.
    Could there be improvements? Sure. That’s the case with all sports in all High Schools. Wrestling more events would help Pulaski. But No. 1, it needs to get numbers. Not a lot of kids are participating now in wrestling as it is the toughest sport there is. Only boxing is tougher in my humble opinion.
    Your kid can not be a seasonal wrestler and expect them to compete at a high level at region and state. You have to take them to wrestle the “after” season tournaments and get them competition during the spring. That sadly doesn’t happen at Pulaski.
    I am sure that if “pc wrestling fan” is volunteering to head the efforts of taking these young athletes to these competitions, Coach Butler will surely not object.
    If you want to be a champion, you have to train like a champion, and quite frankly, its a winter sport for most of these guys and they are happy with that. As a fan, you are most likely just going to have to live with it, or jump in and offer some support.

  4. pc wrestling fan

    February 25, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Thank you for answering and clarifying the rumors I heard. I’m glad it wasn’t Coach Butler that was thrown out. The tough competition from Northern Virginia explains why regionals was so hard. I’m still shocked that no one made it to state as we were senior loaded.

    BTW, I didn’t say Coach Butler stormed out. And this was about what was told to me. I just wanted some truth about the situation.

    As far as helping the wrestling program, what are the options a parent can do? Is there a wrestling booster club? If so, who do we contact?

    • off season wrestling

      February 26, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Good place to start is the Virginia wrestling page.

      excellent website to find tournaments for your child to participate. on the very front page it has upcoming events. has a tab to click and you can see at least two months of tournaments to choose from.

      I took my son to a lot of the events listed on there. word of caution you may have to purchase a USA wrestling card to participate in some of the events, but most of them are just come and prove your age. birth certificate or your last report card are good to take with you for proof of age.

      Coach Butler does run a league wrestling team that should be starting soon. but they only participate in local events. if you want your child to get advanced mat time, I suggest going to some of those tournaments listed on the website.

  5. PCHS Graduate

    February 25, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Over 240 children……This I believe says it all. Pulaski County needs to work on a strong academic foundation before even considering the sports program. Seems like some people have misplaced their priorities when considering the future of our children.

  6. Leon

    February 25, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    I seen the article that cougar dave put in the paper. I disagree with him altogether. We have the talent in this county, we just don’t have coaches. If you aint'”” SOMEBODY” OR HAVE CLOUT in this county your children will not play any sports. I think it is time we look at the talent these kids have and pick from that. In my opinion we should have won a whole lot more football and basketball games than we did. I think we need a new slate across the board of all coaches. Why get rid of one or two, lets take it all the way. Get someone out of town who has no connections with any family here. None of this kiss up style.

  7. Shirley

    February 25, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Why don’t the people in this county realize that we are not going to get a Rec. Center. It has been put on hold. We need other things than that right now. We need to renovate our schools, clean up the ones we have and increase our teachers salaries. The only people that will benefit from a rec center is Anthony Akers and his staff. Guess that will be more money for them and oh what bragging will take place then. And it will give them somewhere else to hide instead of going to the mall.I guess if this takes place the whole family will have a job paid by the taxpayers in Pulaski County

    • pc sports

      February 26, 2014 at 11:52 am

      It sounds like someone is jealous of Mr. Akers. He’s a fine man with a great family, and Pulaski County is fortunate to have them.

    • Spectator

      February 26, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      The rec dept. employees are not the only people who would benefit from a rec. center. That thinking is flawed on a ton of different levels. We do have things in this county that need to be done, at least one new school, and a host of other things that need to be taken care of, all of which require tax dollars (which I don’t mind to pay more of if it means my children can have a decent middle school). Tax dollars are increased if we can get more people to move to this county, buy homes/land here, and spend their money IN THIS COUNTY. We attract more people by having something to offer, and the reality is right now, PC doesn’t have a lot to offer. The children (and everyone else) of this community have nothing other than Randolph Park. Why would people want to move here and give tax dollars to a place that offers them nothing, when they can move to a neighboring county and have everything we have plus a whole lot more?
      A rec center won’t make or break this town and is just an example of things that could benefit this county, but there won’t be improvements to this county and loyalty here until PC figures out a way to be desirable to outsiders and even to people who were born and bred here.

    • Va Girl

      February 27, 2014 at 9:40 am

      Only way the rec staff would be benefit more than the children is if NO children ever joined the rec leagues or went to play/hang out at rec center….but that is not the case.

      My son was in rec league basketball and soccer for years and loved it. Although it would be nice for a better building, the kids truly don’t care much. They just want to be with each other to play with and/or against other kids.

  8. Bessie85

    February 26, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Thank You Cougar Dave for the article, especially the part about everyone working to make Pulaski a better place!! And to the parents that have children playing sports, do you get involved in the background? Do you attend booster meetings? Do you constantly send your children to sporting events without going to support them? My daughter played basketball in high school and many times on their away games, we were the only parents in the stands. The coaches are just that, coaches, not babysitters. They are there to direct your children to play the best positions that they can play. Instead of complaining about the coaches, give them some positive reinforcement! Do not constantly harangue them with your opinion. Most armchair quarterbacks are just that, trying to relive their “glory days” through their children. Give it up, Joel Hicks is gone, he doesn’t coach here anymore. Give the new guys a chance and in the process, give the kids a chance!

    • the truth

      February 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      You are correct Bessie Joel Hicks is gone and so are the days of PC football being relevant or even competitive and that will not change as long as Jones and his so called coaching staff are leading the way. And no I am not a “armchair” quarterback as you say but a true fan that has kept up with PC football since the Dave Brown era.. Jones is a FRAUD and lives solely on what he accomplished at Essex. And by the way that same Essex team is still dominant WITHOUT Jones being there (go figure).. The problems that plague PC sports in general will not be solved through trying to point fingers at parents that choose to send their child/children to another school. That is their right to do so PERIOD no matter what the reason. This is just another stir the pot issue Mr. Gravely throws out every so often to get a rise out of everyone.. Keep up the good work Mr. Gravely. And keep pointing fingers at the community..

      • A True Brother!

        February 26, 2014 at 3:14 pm

        As to you “my friend”, you keep on being a coward and hide behind a name. You speak so bravely behind a computer. You say Jones is a fraud and only won because he had talent there because in your own words, “Essex is still dominant without him there.” What are you trying to say about the talent here? Come from behind your computer and speak with the guy. No, I’m sure you will continue to sit with your chest out at your computer and then hide behind others when in public. That’s what cowards do! You know who Dave, Coach Jones, and possibly I am. Why not let yourself be known?

        • the truth

          February 26, 2014 at 3:44 pm

          I know the truth hurts your fragile little feelings but what I convey is my opinion nothing more nothing less and I base it on facts not feelings (as you do). You should not be so sensitive about the truth. What I have to say about Pulaski County is that we have had since your brother (Jones) took over some of the best talent that PC has had in many years and yet your brother has struggled to be go .500 since his arrival and has posted THE WORST season in Cougar history since the Dave Brown era. And last year had the weakest schedule PC has had in probably 20 yrs and again BARELY won 5 games. So you explain it to us all since you seem to feel he is a great coach why he has yet to produce a winning season. I know the truth hurts but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it probably is a duck IMO. And no I do not know any of you personally and honestly can not say I wish to know any of you personally. And last but not least as I have said before a persons identity has nothing to do with anything and should the day come I feel it does matter I will certainly let you know. OUT WITH JONES..

        • pc sports

          February 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm

          I believe you, sir, are hiding behind your name, just like all of us.

      • Bessie85

        February 27, 2014 at 10:31 am

        One other thing you may have overlooked is the fact that the school size has diminished in the last 10 years. The time of families having multiple children that are sports talented has passed. The field to choose players from is smaller and the change in the attitude of the players has changed as well. Being told by the parents that they are not to listen to the coaches also presents a problem, but this is a problem throughout the school system. That applies to teachers as well. If you want to look at NRV past glory, look at Narrows High School. At one time they were the most powerful football team in the state. It was also a larger school than now and had a coach that took no nonsense from students or parents. His name was Harry Ragsdale and he commanded respect from the players and parents. Thanks to the ACLU, that will never be allowed again so, sit back and complain all you want because thanks to so many that have allowed respect and discipline to be removed from schools, it will continue to deteriorate.

        • Va Girl

          February 27, 2014 at 2:10 pm

          Bessie, yes, those are problems. But also consider that many kids are (sadly) not in the physical shape they used to be in years past. Nor do they have the drive to excel they used to.

          Children used to have chores (yes CHORES) on the farm after work. Played outside and loved to run and tumble about instead of sitting in front of a video game, etc. Were taught HARD WORK and perseverance would pay off. They were more athletic by nature as a whole, and more determined to succeed rather than be handed something.

          It is a shame and cannot be blamed 100% on a coach. Many factors contribute.

          • pc sports

            February 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm

            That sounds like the parents might actually have to be a parent and play catch and shoot hoops with their kid, go bike riding and trail hiking….imagine the pounds that could be shed by both parties! It’s possible the kids are following in their parent’s footsteps. Don’t let TV and video games babysit your kids!

  9. concerned

    February 26, 2014 at 8:13 am

    FYI with wrestling this year: This year had a different format than last year. Last year there were 4 regions and this year two. I don’t know how many wrestlers from this new set up qualified for state meet.

    • region tournament wrestling

      February 26, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      north and south regions in 4a sent 4 wrestlers a piece.

      8 wrestlers there to vie for state title in 4a. still the same total number of wrestlers in Salem as there were last season at the single A and double A old style, just more state finalists. I say do like west Virginia and put all classifications into a 32 man tournament and the winner takes all!

      it was that way for every classification.

  10. pc wrestling fan

    February 26, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Leon, you’ve opened up a can of worms that will bring out the coach lovers and blind loyalists! Even if you bring in a new football coach, all the assistants will stay and coach the same way they always have. Local politics won’t allow whole coaching staffs to leave. Certain coaches have royal blood in the county which will allow them to stay around forever. It’s that way in every county. You are right about needing “clout” to get playing time, especially if your talent is equal or close to the next guy. The right name always wins out. Especially if the coaches son/relatives are involved. As I said before, it’s that way in every county.

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