Feel­ing that ‘ Pan­ther pride’

Rappahannock News - - EDITORIAL & OPINION -

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

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