2017-07-19 / Opinions

Looking back on 45 years as coach

To the Editor:

My journey into coaching began innocently enough in the summer of 1972. I had just graduated from Roanoke College and was moving back home after four years there. Dan Bates was the boys’ coach at Letcher High School then and he encouraged former players to come back and practice and compete against his current players. He thought it helped toughen them up a bit and also showed them you could continue to love playing basketball, even after high school.’

I was young and in shape and went to play with them at every opportunity I got. There were several former Letcher players in the area that still played basketball in adult leagues and other venues. As we would compete and play, Dan would ask me to show some of his current players how to do some of the things I was doing as I played. I was coming off a banner season as a senior at Roanoke. Our team had just won the 1972 College Division National Championship in Evansville, Ind., that spring so I was primed and ready to play.

As I worked with some of his kids I began to enjoy teaching them and showing them things they needed to work on to compete better. Dan kept asking me to help so I continued to help them. At some point along the way he asked me to help him coach there at Letcher and to work with his freshmen team. And so I did and now 45 years later it seems like it was only a few years ago I started doing that. And what a path I’ve traveled. I helped Dan in that capacity for a little over 20 years, until he stepped down. I also helped Ozz Jackson coach several boys’ 15 U AAU team chosen from all over Letcher County during that time.

I enjoyed the coaching part so much I returned to school over the last few years of my Letcher tenure to get my teaching degree so I could coach full time and not just be a volunteer. My grand plan seemed to be for me to get teacher certified and replace Dan when he retired from coaching. Well, that story took an interesting turn as I did not get hired to coach at Letcher as the plan was, but rather as an assistant coach for Eddie Whitaker at Whitesburg for five years. I also coached the boys’ baseball team for three years while helping Eddie with basketball. We enjoyed some great success with boys’ basketball at WHS, as they moved to the top of the 14th Region for the first time in many years. I also undertook coaching the girls’ softball team for three years while at WHS and we enjoyed considerable success.

Some health issues caused me to reconsider coaching options in 1996-97. I stepped down as boys’ basketball assistant and chose to move over to help with the girls’ team for a spell. Some more interesting turns there and I wound up being the head basketball coach for the WHS Lady Jackets, and it was outstanding being their coach and we enjoyed great success during that time. I served there until 2005 and consolidation overtook our three county high schools. Letcher Central was formed and I was chosen to coach their girls’ basketball team.

I am finishing up my 45-year coaching career here at Letcher Central. I have coached the girls’ basketball team from 2005-2017 and it’s been a great ride as well. During this period I also agreed to coach the girls’ volleyball team when their head coach quit and did that for a period of three years. Our success there was amazing and we took dramatic strides improving those teams.

This brings us to now, as I prepare an exit strategy for retiring as girls’ basketball coach at LCC. It’s been uncomfortable for me since I’m doing this for the very first time in my career. I have tried to do it with the least amount of fanfare and attention being paid to me as possible. I would much prefer attention being focused on the kids if at all possible. I hope to make the transition to another coach at our school as easy and carefree as possible. I don’t know how this will work out eventually but I’m hopeful it will ease our team and our new coach into a great working relationship with as little drama and conflict as possible.

Since I started this letter, LCC has hired Keith Baker to be the new girls’ coach. I think they made a great choice; Keith was assistant for me for many years at WHS and LCC. He has also coached crosscountry and volleyball and had much success with all his teams. Keith has asked Bumper Adams, my assistant at LCC the past 12 years, and Kelah Eldridge, a former LCC and UPike player, to be his assistant coaches.

You can see why I think LCC made a wise decision. Some new blood mixed in with the tradition and ties to all the success girls’ basketball has enjoyed in Letcher County. I would hope that LCC and staff, players, fans and our community will embrace and support Keith and his new staff as much as they have for us while we were the coaches. I think our girls will prosper and continue to compete at the highest level in our district, our region, and our state.

Please come out and support all our sports and school activities; our kids put forth a lot of effort and energy to compete and participate in all sorts of school activities and just watching them perform is uplifting and energizing and your presence does the same for them. They love to see people in the stands and to talk with people out in the community about their teams and activities.

High school sports is still the best game in town whether you are in Whitesburg, Lexington, or New York. DICKIE ADAMS

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