Welcome back to Phil for the Game, your glimpse into the sports community of Boone County.
It is a sad day in Boone County as we’ve lost one of our brightest, most successful coaches in Michael Showalter, who stepped down last week citing a desire to pursue other interests.
I didn’t know Coach Showalter before he took over as the Tide skipper. I had just returned to the area after living in North Carolina. He was impressive out of the gate. It was apparent to me immediately that he would be a great caretaker of the program and bring the maroon and gold into the future.
He had “old school” grit and toughness with a desire to embrace technology and all of the elements that can help a coach connect with his student-athletes.
“Coach Sho” used social media, he actually read sports pages from newspapers around the state and he was always informed.
For me as a reporter, I value coaches who do specific things and Showalter ticked all of those boxes.
Keep good statistics? Check. Pick up a phone even after a tough loss? Check. Handle stressful situations in a way that doesn’t embarrass the school, community and kids? Check. Innovative on the field and a master motivator? Check. Ability to stress excellence in the classroom? Check.
He also proved my theory that offensive linemen make great coaches. One specific incident sticks out in my mind. There was a Class A playoff game at Zontini Field a few years ago and Sherman was playing a private school that night. It had been raining for days and the field was in pretty bad shape, but as a former player at Sherman, I’d seen much worse in my day. It wasn’t THAT bad.
A coach from the opposing team entered the press box where I was standing pre-game and unloaded about the field conditions and that it was unacceptable for play.
It was then that coach Showalter said something I’ll never forget and I am paraphrasing here: “Welcome to Class A playoff football in West Virginia. Sometimes it rains and we don’t have fields covered in turf.”
It was the perfect response to a silly rant. The opposing coach left the press box and the Tide proceeded to take the opponent behind the shed that night.
It is too early to hear who may apply for the job, but there are certainly coaches on the Sherman staff who are qualified. As of press time, the job hadn’t even been posted yet, so we’ll have to wait this one out, just like the Scott High football job in December.
Showalter is a social studies and drivers education teacher at Sherman. He has a desire to be an administrator. His penchant for organization and his integrity make him a perfect fit, in my opinion.
I’ve always said that coaches who teach have an advantage. They get to know kids on another level, they can keep a watchful eye on them and they can be a mentor throughout the day, not just after 3 p.m.
There are many local examples of coaches who are successful while not being employed by the school system, but they are at a disadvantage out of the gate, in my opinion. They must be master communicators to overcome that lack of exposure to the kids. We have many of them throughout the county who do this. It can work.
In closing, I’ll say that the Sherman program is in a good place. The facility is organized, procedures and goals are in place for the kids and there is plenty of talent coming back next season. Until someone proves me wrong, I’ll go ahead and call Tide running back CJ Winnell the best returning player in Boone County. He was a leading tackler on defense and a 1,000-yard rusher as junior. He’s tougher than a $2 steak and wants the ball 40 times a game. I’ll feed that kid the ball all day long. Look for Colby Buzzard to come back strong after a broken arm sidelined his junior season for the Tide. Also a kid who wants the ball in tough situations.
I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite sports-related quotes about football. Be safe neighbors.
“Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.” — Joe Theismann
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or at 304-307-2401.