Libbey coach hangs tough despite a winless seasonWritten by David Gatwood | | email@example.com
The Libbey Cowgirls were once a proud basketball program. A state championship banner hangs from the Fieldhouse rafters.
But in recent years, there have been no thoughts of state championships; the very existence of the team has occupied the minds of those closest to the program.
Amid the turmoil, a young man, Eric Pilcher, has stepped forward to perhaps instill new life into a dying program. Given the circumstances, the immediate question must be, why?
Pilcher is not an old, veteran coach who knows the standard questions and the corresponding answers. His appearance is that of a young artist or writer as opposed to a frustrated old athlete. He has no head coaching experience and only a combined three years as an assistant baseball and football coach. It can safely be said he is a coaching novice.
Along with Pilcher’s inexperience comes frankness. He is not afraid to answer questions and does not avoid the difficult ones. He recognizes he is in a difficult situation, but refuses to be discouraged. When he firmly said, “We’ll finish the season,” it was believable.
Looking at the bigger picture, Pilcher said the key to any success he might have in his position at Libbey is to convince players there is “no instant reward” and there is a benefit in just “getting a little bit better every day.”
“So many of these kids come here feeling that the whole world is against them. They give up,” Pilcher said. “We need more kids who feel the whole world is against them, but who say, ‘I’m going to show them.’ ”
Pilcher’s enthusiasm and hopefulness will have to carry over to next season as the Libbey girls completed the 2006-07 schedule without a win. At a game against Toledo City League rival Central Catholic earlier this season, he had only nine players show up to play a scheduled junior varsity/varsity doubleheader. The following day, he had only four girls show up for a scheduled practice, most of which showed up late. With such numbers, operating a program is nearly impossible, but Pilcher refuses to let it get him down.
It is not only the internal problems present at Libbey that make Pilcher’s task a difficult one. Complicating the situation is the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education’s failure to make a decision relative to the possible closure of Libbey High School. Pilcher said the uncertainty created by the board’s procrastination has spilled over to Libbey students and has had a chilling effect on student participation in activities.
He compares his present coaching situation to his first teaching days at Libbey. At first, there were some problems, mostly related to discipline.
“I needed to change some attitudes and they did, slowly but surely,” he said.
As for the basketball team, Pilcher said the same approach would work.
“We will weed out the weak and those that remain will draw in the marginal ones,” he said.
For more high school sports news, see David Gatwood’s Web site, www.nwoprepsports.com.