Feeling that ‘ Panther pride’
Regarding the letter last week titled “School board, govern thyselves,” I would be remiss in my role as Rappahannock County High School athletic director not to address the concerns expressed regarding our schools’ athletic programs.
We compete in our district against schools that are, at a minimum, twice our size and, most of the time, two and a half times our size. Needless to say this puts us at a disadvantage in team sports for the obvious reason of a smaller talent pool. That does not mean we cannot compete – our soccer and volleyball teams have shown as much, as does the outstanding achievement of our athletes who participate in individual sports like cross country, wrestling and track and field.
Our situation is changing next year thanks to new Virginia High School League groupings. We will be in a group of schools of up to 450 students and will have the opportunity to compete on a far more level playing field.
We are making progress in those sports – basketball in particular – where we have struggled in the past several years. Our average score per game was up significantly this year, we had competitive JV teams in both boys and girls ( after an absence of at least a year), and our middle school boys team completed a championship season with a 17- 1 record, including multiple victories over local public schools. We are working hard to bring more progress. All plans put in place have only the best of intentions for our student athletes and our teams.
As athletic director, I work hard to prevent inappropriate fan behavior and have in my tenure counseled and even removed or suspended both fans and players for unsportsmanlike conduct ( something which, of course, I cannot publicize). Can we prevent such things from ever occurring? Unlikely, given that the habit of yelling at refs and other players seems to be a national malaise. But we can, have and must continue to work to correct that behavior. It is worth noting that we have won the VHSL Stay in the Game Sportsmanship Award multiple times, including last year. It is my hope that as our programs become more competitive, positive community support will grow.
Baseball, softball, girls and boys soccer and track seasons are almost upon us. I invite all readers of this paper, and all members of the Rapp community, to come out to one of our events and judge for yourself the quality of our competitiveness and our crowds. I believe that if you do it is not embarrassment you will feel but pride, Panther Pride. I know I do.
JAMES E. ( JIMMY) SWINDLER II
RCPS Athletic Director
RCHS class of 1978