Did Smothers ever have a real chance at Georgiana?

Published 9:22 am Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Butler County Magnet School’s gymnasium is the premier athletic facility in the county. Immaculate floors, great lighting, concession stands, two locker rooms, and coaches offices. Even a stage for school productions and assemblies.

But at the rear of the school’s gym is a little secret. One of those secrets everyone knows about, but choose to ignore. Or, at least, some choose to ignore.

There’s a weight room back there with no weights. No. I take that back. The last time I looked there were two miniscule dumbbells, probably moved there as an afterthought by an athlete who thought they might do some good. Someone who wanted their weight room to look not quite so bare.

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Now anyone who follows athletics across the state – and we’re talking, for the most part, about high school football here – knows that the foundation for a successful athletic program begins in the weight room. Every player at every position on the team needs muscle. For running the football, for throwing a long pass, for pushing off blockers, for tackling, for hitting, for winning. If you want to win in high school football, you have to have a solid weight program. That’s not me on my soapbox. That’s what any high school coach in the state will tell you.

Yet Georgiana did not. For two years the Panthers’ football team languished at the old high school, performing squats from a pair of rickety weight racks that required multiple spotters, (less an unfortunate accident robbed some young man of his ability to ever walk again). For two years, the school spent nothing, nada, zilch, on weight equipment for the football team because everyone was quietly waiting for the new school to open. Which it did in the fall of 2009.

And head football coach Shane Smothers had a bare room to work with.

To make matters worse, some thief broke into the old weight facility, (facility – that’s a laugher; a decrepit old field-house where temperatures in the summer soared past 100 degrees. On a cool day), and made off with what weight lifting equipment the team did have.

Aside, from two dumbbells.

Smothers and staff did what they could, putting their players through a rigorous conditioning program of body-weight exercises, running, and plyometrics inside a place where they should have building muscle, muscle they would need for the upcoming football season. But Georgiana’s football players were at a disadvantage before the year even began.

At some point in time, Smothers was promised he’d have the tools in place to build a successful football program in Georgiana. It was a commitment made by someone, or some entity, of responsibility.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: is everything being done that can be done to ensure our students can compete? Both athletically and academically? Are we giving our coaches and teachers the tools they need to be successful?

Smothers, clearly, was not granted that opportunity. He’s leaving to take a job at Lawrence County where the school principal, superintendent and athletic boosters have rolled out the red carpet.

But maybe it’s not a matter of success or failure sometimes. Maybe you can do your job in the Butler County School District, earn the respect and admiration of your colleagues, students, and members of the community, and still find it’s not enough.

I don’t know.

Maybe we should ask what Dr. Charles Farmer thinks.