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Area Coaches Speak Out About Sports Delays

By Randy Rutherford - Staff Writer | Jan 13, 2021

Now that Governor Justice has again delayed the start of winter sports in West Virginia until March 1st at the earliest, I caught up with several area coaches to get their feelings on the second delay and how their teams and sport will be impacted by the decision.

Governor Justice is also the head coach of the Greenbrier East girls’ basketball team so his decision hits close to home for him, too. Local area coaches are pretty frustrated and hope things will indeed start on March 1st. There are still many unanswered questions about the start up. The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) was working hard to see the abbreviated season would run smoothly, but now the WVSSAC must regroup. Most coaches feel there are not many good answers at this point.

Coach Dave Riggle, Head Basketball Coach and Head Track Coach at Paden City High School, graduated from Cameron High School in 2006 and West Liberty in 2010. He has served as the Junior High and High School Girls Basketball Coach at Paden City as well as their Athletic Director. As he enters his second year as head coach he is trying to stay optimistic regarding the season. His concern for his seniors is foremost on his mind. Ty Cain and Carson Palmer both had shortened junior seasons due to injury and both have worked very hard for their final year. Coach Riggle and Athletic Director Robert Price are again working to schedule/reschedule games beginning March 1st.

The question that is looming large for all area coaches and athletic directors is will teams be able to practice prior to March 1st, or does practice start March 1st and the season to follow?

Another unknown is the status of the14 day preseason practice requirement. If March 1st is indeed the start date for practice, does this two week requirement put spring sports in jeopardy? In smaller schools where numbers are low, there are not enough kids to have winter and spring sports at the same time. Baseball and Softball for example, if not allowed to play this year, will now miss two full years without playing a game. Coach Riggle shared, to his kid’s credit, they all got together this past fall on their own and played on the outdoor court, and now his kids are traveling to The Highlands Sports Complex in Wheeling to continue practicing together.

Quoting Coach Riggle, “My biggest concern is eventually they will cancel all sports for the year.” He wants all his players and parents to know that he will continue to work to prepare for the season until he is told to stop.

Coach Steve Nutter currently performs duties for two different area high schools. Coach Nutter is the Head Boys Basketball Coach at TCHS and also serves as the St Marys High School Head Coach for Boys Cross Country and Track. Coach Nutter was a member of the 2001 graduating class of St Marys High School and a 2006 graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan earning a B.S. in Business Management, MBA. He has been in coaching since 2006. He began his career coaching middle school basketball in Pleasants County. Coach Nutter has also coached basketball at various locations in West Virginia including Richwood High School, Richwood, WV and Webster County High School, Upperglade, WV. He has also served as the St Marys Freshmen Basketball Coach. Like Coach Riggle, Coach Nutter is trying to stay optimistic about the season and is proud of how his kids have reacted to the delays. Being unable to meet officially as a team has required his players to work on their own. Coach Nutter’s athletes have responded by going to the Highlands to work out and playing on the outdoor courts. The only thing they have not been able to do is weight lifting on a regular basis. Quoting Coach Nutter, “I think we will be in full swing by March 1st. I believe the SSAC will allow practice to begin prior to March 1st so games can start then.” Coach Nutter believes the March 1st date is a huge step in the right direction to get back to normal. He is hoping this gives his players the motivation to keep working on their own until they can come together as a team. “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do,” says Coach Nutter borrowing a famous line from Robert Schuller. Coach Nutter believes many students find success at TCHS only through the addition of participation in sports. “Many kids struggle without sports and need to be allowed to participate in a safe, secure and supportive environment,” shared Coach Nutter.

In an email conversation with Bernie Dolan, Executive Director of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activity Commission, I asked if March 1st is the start date for practice or games. He said he remains hopeful that March 1st will be the start date for the first contest. He also expects the winter season to be shortened and that spring sports will start later but be played. Of course all of this is dependent on the situation with COVID-19 and subject to change.

Dave Tallman, Head Basketball Coach at Magnolia High school for 28 years, expressed how bad he feels for people that have lost loved ones during the pandemic. The hardest part for him has been not being able to say good bye to those that have passed. He is staying patient and praying we have a basketball season. Dave has been very successful at Magnolia and contributes all his success to his players, fans, administration, and his assistant coaches. He knows they all will remain optimistic and welcome back 2021 with the same enthusiasm that they have had in the past.

David Tallman, Head basketball Coach at Morgantown High School for the past six years and also the son of Dave Tallman of Magnolia, says, “This is the first time in my life I haven’t been around basketball during the winter, and we are bored.” His players have been working, on their own, as a group with local trainers. He would like to see them back in the facilities where it would be safer for them.

After reaching out to different coaches in the area, all are trying their best to remain positive and work through these continuing delays to their seasons. Each coach remains flexible to handle obstacles but all with the best interest of the student athletes at heart. Like all area coaches, players and fans, I just hope I’m not required to write a similar article for Spring Sports.