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By Kelly Youngblood
Blue Ridge hopes to tackle more than just issues with its football program. The district would also like to address concerns it has about the entire athletic program as a whole.
School board members agreed it was time to focus on improving athletics overall at Blue Ridge at a meeting Nov. 14.
Blue Ridge Superintendent Susan Wilson said much of the board’s time and energy has been spent on the new building at the Mansfield campus over the last couple of years.
“I will be the first to admit athletics has not been at the top of my list to address,” Wilson said.
Blue Ridge School Board Secretary Maureen Gilbert agreed. “I really think the board has focused a lot of time and energy on the (new) school and getting that going. I don’t think we’ve had as much focus on the athletic program” said Gilbert.
But Wilson and board members agreed it should become a bigger priority. “The time has come to really focus on (athletics),” Wilson said.
Gilbert said she was concerned about a decrease in student participation in certain programs and the difficulty in retaining coaches.
“It’s no secret that our numbers are down everywhere except for boys basketball and soccer,” Gilbert said. “We need to look at why our numbers are dwindling and focus on why it is so hard to get coaches to come coach at Blue Ridge,” she said.
The district held a special meeting Nov. 8 to discuss the future of the football program. In order to improve the program’s success, the district was considering a few options that included running a JV schedule only or forming a co-op with another district.
The majority of the attendants, which included parents and players, voiced their opinions in favor of keeping the program as is- with a varsity and JV team.
Superintendent Susan Wilson said she was very encouraged by the outcome of the meeting.
Football as is for now
Blue Ridge High School Principal John Lawrence said as of now the plan is to continue with both a JV and varsity team at Blue Ridge.
However, Lawrence said some considerable changes would need to be made by players, coaches, parents, administrators, and community members in order for the program to be successful.
Lawrence said the 24 football players who have committed to next year’s team would start a weight-lifting program this month and that attendance would be taken.
Since both high school football coaches resigned last month, the district will have to hire a new coaches for the 2013 season. Lawrence said it was the opinion of many at the meeting that it would be beneficial to the football program to hire a coach who was also a teacher in the district.
With two P.E. teaching positions opening up at the end of the year as well as several other teaching positions, Wilson and board members agreed hiring teachers were willing to coach in the district was a good idea.
John Weaver, Mansfield Elementary and Blue Ridge Junior High Principal, said with so many teaching positions opening up at the end of the year, the district had an opportunity right now to add dedicated, long-term coaches to the district.
“We want to hire the best teachers but should coaching be an expectation coming in too?” Weaver asked.
“As we hire teachers, if we don’t hire coaches too, we can talk about athletics but it’s not going to change unless we hire people willing, interested and have some talent at coaching,” he said.
School Board President Bart Lytel noted the impact it would make to students seeing coaches not only on the field but in the classroom as well.
Board members also discussed the position of athletic director and what role it should play in the district. Currently, Eric Decker's job is split between athletic director and high school social studies teacher.
Board members agreed to consider changing the athletic director position to full-time.