A couple weeks ago, I sat in a home economics classroom at Ellender High School to enjoy the great delight that is the VIP room for the MidSouth Bank Classic Basketball Tournament.
As I slobbered down my first slice of delicious Little Caesar’s pizza and looked up to grab another, my eyes met those of a young, energetic male in a blue Ellender shirt, who was doing the same.
“Hey man, are you with the newspaper?” he asked from across the room before rising up to come and shake my hand.
“Yes sir,” I responded back. “I’m Casey Gisclair with the Tri-Parish Times.”
“OK, OK, good,” he shot back. “I’m Timothy Betts. You’ll be talking to me pretty soon, I hope.”
So I made a casual acquaintance and a new friend. Big deal. It happens all of the time.
But as Mr. Betts walked away from me and started talking to some of the other parents in the room, I understood what he meant.
The Terrebonne Parish School Board released applicants for the H.L. Bourgeois and Ellender High School football coaching vacancies two weeks ago. Betts was one of just two people who are aspiring to be the Patriots’ new head coach.
The school is in need of a replacement after longtime coach Tawaskie Anderson resigned following nine seasons at the helm of the Patriots.
Ellender hasn’t exactly been a local football powerhouse in recent years. Actually, they haven’t been good, average or just sort of bad, either.
They’ve been pretty miserable, taking a 23-game losing streak into next season. The last time the Patriots were victorious in a varsity football game was Oct. 24, 2008, when they beat Morgan City. That, my friends, was a very, very long time ago.
There are several disadvantages that prohibited Anderson (who is a good coach and a good man) from being successful and will likely limit the new coach, as well, whether it’s Betts or the job’s other applicant, David Ward, from Georgia.
The first problem the school has is the lack of a feeder system.
Terrebonne High School gets players from Houma Junior High. H.L. Bourgeois gets players from Evergreen Junior High School.
Ellender is just sort of stuck in the middle with no one true school to call its own. They share Oaklawn Junior High School’s population with nearby South Terrebonne and they also pull from Grand Caillou Middle School. But guess what? Grand Caillou Middle School doesn’t have a football team.
So, basically, the young men that end up at Ellender are inexperienced and unprepared compared to their Terrebonne and H.L. Bourgeois counterparts.
The second problem the school faces is its own history.
When you’ve won just a single game since 2008, how does one get students to try out for football?
In 2010, Ellender had just five seniors, but had more than two dozen freshmen.
Looking at that pattern, it’s safe to make the assumption that players arrive at the school eager to play, then leave the program sometime before their senior seasons because they wear thin of the grind of losing.
That’s not a great recipe for continued success.
What the school has working in its favor is talent. Walk up and down the halls of Ellender High School or just go to the House of Pain for a basketball game n there are dozens upon dozens of athletic men and women at that school.
Coach Scott Gauthreaux with the boy’s team and Kenneth Dixon with the girl’s both do a great job getting the school’s athletes to succeed on the court and in the classroom, which allows them to ultimately stay on the basketball floor.
From being a fly on the wall in the VIP room, Betts said, if hired, he would try and replicate those coach’s approaches and do the same. Betts touted he’d implement a system where he’d meet with the parents of every player and would ultimately try and keep a close touch on what is going on in his player’s lives.
Sure, there would be bumps in the road along the way, but when you’ve lost 23-straight, there’s pretty much nowhere to go but up.
Let me please give a disclaimer before anyone takes this the wrong way. I’m NOT endorsing Betts, or anyone for this job.
I’m just saying that I applaud the man’s willingness to offer to give it his best shot.
With just two applicants, he has a 50/50 chance, I’d imagine.
Maybe if more than two people gave the school a fighting chance, this wouldn’t be a problem.
Hopefully, the next time I’m eating Little Caesar’s at Ellender, we’re all talking about the great success they had under their first-year coach n whomever he shall be.
They need it.
Everyone deserves their slice of pizza sometimes, right? It’s probably Ellender’s turn for some stuffed crust.
What does it take to be a prep head coach?
• Must be a certified faculty member
• Pay is a percentage of teacher’s salary; usually equates to a few thousand dollars annually
What if you’re not a licensed teacher?
• You can only be head coach minor sports n baseball, bowling, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis indoor and outdoor track and wrestling
• Non-faculty member can be an assistant coach for any sport at all levels
What qualifications must a non-faculty member possess in order to be a coach?
• Must pass a National Federation of High School Coaching Course