As Fred and I began prep for the call of the Musselman/Hedgesville game Friday night I stole a glance of the Musselman fans as the Hedgesville team jogged out for warm-ups. There were looks of disbelief. How can the fourth largest school in the state have only 24 players? I counted a total of 8 linemen doing their pregame drills. A team cannot compete in the AAA classification with those numbers and the final score Friday night proved it.
My three daughters have attended three different high schools. I have seen the good and the bad in various sports programs. I don't know enough of what is happening at Hedgesville to comment specifically but based on experience, you must have the following to be successful:
1. Stability in coaching. Hire a good coach and stick with that person for a number of years. Most are not miracle workers able to immediately correct the sins of the past.
2. Emphasize with the coach that they are part of a school community. They must immerse themselves in the everyday activities of the school and must coach and educate their players that they are athletes second and students first. If you lose the respect and admiiration of the student body and teachers, soon nobody wants to associate with you.
3 The coach must insist that their program, no matter how prominent or successful, gets treated like every other coach and program. Just because the guy down the hall wins state championships does not mean that he can do no wrong while other coaches toil in relative anonymity. This creates resentment, jealousy and an expectation that only one, or a few, sports matter. Successful schools honor all athletic pursuits and make sure all sports programs have what they need to create enthusiasm and support from within.
4. Athletic directors must follow rule number 3. If the teachers and students see an AD preoccupied with one sport, soon they will be too, to the detriment of the other sports and athletes. The way to bring down a school sports program is to have individual programs competing as much with each other within a school as they do with the rival across town.
5. Principals and AD's must insist on school support. Develop the situations where the basketball team finds the time to attend a footballl game or volleyball match. Seeing your fellow students in the stands means so much to the athletes and is encouraging to those who think about playing a sport. The fact that some coaches in the off-season suggest to their players that they NOT ATTEND another sporting event is ridiculous and lacking any reasonable rationale.
6. Finally, for school administrators, celebrate the success of all of your athletes with equal vigor. Winning a state football or basketball state championship is no more difficult than winning individual tennis honors. Again, this avoids resentment and the feeling that your school teams and athletes are competing within the walls of your own school.
These are just some of the attributes I see in successful sports programs in our schools. I do not mean to suggest these don't exist at Hedgesville. I just hope the much deserved attention the Hedgesville FB program warrants will include consideration of these factors.