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Simmons Says - More needed to support athletics

The Pioneers looked good celebrating on turf field this season.

The last few months have been truly eye-opening while following the Pioneers. From the moment everything got going in Smithville back in August, up to last week’s matchup at Siegel, it’s been a real joy watching Warren County stand toe-to-toe with the state’s best.

While there has been plenty of wins to write about (and we’ve had pretty much all of them here on the WCSA website), Warren County is still finding out where it falls short. I’m not talking about our teams or athletes though – as we documented, our local kids are thriving by staying home. I’m talking about how far we still have to go when it comes to measuring up to facilities Pioneer Nation has gotten to see as our teams reach new heights.

Look, my mom gave me the Waylon Jennings speech a long time ago - I know we can’t worry too much about keeping up with the Jones. Still, you can’t help but feel some jealously when you see pristine turf fields, walk by gigantic training centers or hear a crystal-clear PA system. At some point, you’re going to hear somebody ask, “Why can’t we have nice things?”

In fact, I’ve asked that question before to WCHS athletic director Todd Willmore. I’ve inquired about how we finance our sports teams and how we can get on their level.

Willmore has always been forthcoming, saying that the athletic department rarely turns down a request when teams or coaches ask for things. I believe him – I’ve asked coaches and they usually would confirm it.

Let’s put that to the ultimate test. I have a list of stuff that I think would be nice to see in Warren County (coaches, feel free to steal it):

Item No. 1 – We absolutely have to fix the PA system in Charlie Dalton Gym.

People have been making the same Charlie Brown joke for about a decade now. It’s true – nobody can hear what is being said when Warren County is at home, it’s just “wah wa wa wa.”

It really hit home to me this season. I had a chance to watch Brent Carden film CJ Taylor’s college announcement – we went to Nunley Stadium and CJ poured out his heart. It was a great speech. I wish people could have heard it in the gym.

I watch NBA games all the time. PA announcers add to the game. If you enjoy old school NBA, then you probably have heard the classic, “DEEEEE-TROIT BASSS-KET-BALLLLL!” call when the Pistons caused a turnover in their heyday. Or take it more local – what Predator fan doesn’t know the “There’s one minute left in the period,” announcement? Exactly --- Thanks Paul!

Bryan Kell is an excellent PA announcer. It would be cool to hear him every now and then.

Item No. 2 – Turf Field with a Track

This isn’t going to be as popular with people and I know it. It’s because if we did go with a turf field surrounded by a regulation size track to comply with TSSAA standards, it would mean moving games away from Nunley Stadium.

Yes, I can feel you wincing while reading that. I’m sorry!

Here’s the issue – there just isn’t enough room down there to build a track with enough lanes while still maintaining a regulation sized football field (and let’s just say, if somebody ever really measured it now, they’d find out it’s not regulation already). That’s not even to mention the drainage issues and other things that probably need to be updated at Nunley Stadium right now.

Think about this - Warren County can't have high school track events locally. Our track isn't big enough. Just resurfacing it isn't enough it seems - we don't have a way to make it bigger.

I know there was a push recently to resurface the track at the middle school. The funding was mostly going to come from a local organization – and that’s an awesome gesture. The only thing is I believe that money would be better spent laying the groundwork for an on-campus field and track at Warren County High School.

Willmore and coach Matt Turner presented these ideas last year. It’s nothing new – WCHS always had envisioned building a field near the school sometime in the future when it was constructed over 20 years ago. Maybe it’s time to do that.

While it doesn’t have to be turf, nobody can deny how cool Oakland’s field looks every time we go there. And – since we’re already talking about it – a jumbotron would be cool too.

Item No. 3 – Buses that actually show up

This isn’t even a big expense. I’d just like to stop having to report on how our teams keep getting left behind by our buses. When it last happened, there was simply no excuse.

The basketball teams were supposed to be traveling to Sparta and there was no school that day, so nobody could say all the buses were in use. None of them were! And yet, the Lady Pioneers sat at the high school and waited for nearly an hour, causing a delay of a district game.

I’ve made this point several times, but I’ll point it out again – It’s crazy that so many of our coaches have felt the need to go get CDL just so they know they’ll have a bus driver.

We can do better Warren County.

I really could go on and on - I loved the light show Siegel was able to do before the sectional game, I was absolutely astonished when I saw Cleveland’s wrestling center, I always think we could do more in house to promote our Pioneers (although, I’m up for the task here at the WCSA, just hire me), I think we could really do so much more with the video board in Charlie Dalton Gym (if the sound worked), particularly advertising since that was one of the main selling points when we decided to get it.

I know our players and coaches take pride in what we have. Just recently, the WCHS baseball team has had workdays on the weekend to revamp Patrick Ramsey Field (It’s going to look good when it’s all done). I also know we’ve made huge strides in just the last decade – like dropping $1.3 million on the indoor practice facility.

Let’s not stop though. It seems those investments are paying off. If we can continue to make improvements off the field, maybe our programs will keep improving on the fields.

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