Phil for the Game: A column by Phil Perry

I recently had a conversation with a middle school parent of a Jackson County athlete. This parent echoed a thought that I had heard from others before about various coaches.

This parent stated that they wouldn't let their child play for a particular varsity coach because this coach produced far too few division-1 athletes.

I had researched this extensively months ago and planned to include it in a column back in the summer.

If this is the criteria for judging prep coaches in all sports, then we should conduct a mass extraction of most coaches in the state of West Virginia. For the sake of argument and column space, lets focus on the game of football.

According to Yahoo sports research, The mountain state had only produced three Division-1 Football Bowl Subdivision full scholarship athletes in football just prior to the deadline for letters of intent in 2012.

Sure, a few more signings trickled in after this analysis, but the striking numbers tell the tale.

Florida and Texas usually duke it out at the top of these rankings. Florida took the cake this year with 325 letters of intent pulled from a pool of 38,451 players leaving a ratio of 119 (one of every 119 high school players in Florida signed a Division-I scholarship).

In contrast, West Virginia was near the bottom with three players from a pool of 6,183 players leaving a ratio of 1546.
Vermont, Wyoming, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Maine were the only states that did not produce a single recruit.

There are many factors involved here. They include population of a given state, geography, and let's not forget genetics and the often not discussed level of competition.

I think it would do parents and athletes in West Virginia some good to go to a West Virginia Conference football game (any teams) and watch a full game. Do you think you could realistically compete at the Division-2 level?

I have heard many local folks scoff at the notion of their child playing at that level of football and in other sports.

Ask University of Charleston running back Jordan Roberts what he thinks. He is a former WVU player who transferred and is excelling at the Division-2 level and getting a great education in the process.

Roberts was quite possibly the best high school running back (in West Virginia) that I have seen in person (and I had to tackle Jon Jones at Stonewall Jackson).

The former Scott Skyhawk is getting NFL sniffs because of his combination of size (5-11 215) and speed (4.56 in 40).
You can ask 1986 Kennedy Award winner and my former teammate at Glenville State Jeff Swisher (Sistersville) how many legitimate division one offers he got as the state's best football player that year. Here is a hint, not nearly as many as you might think.

Chase Fischer, now a sophomore guard for the Wake Forest University hoops squad is the most recent Jackson County D-1 recruit. He willed himself an elite athlete through determination and hard work. While other teens were out hanging with their friends and sitting on the couch, he was in the gym shooting 500 jumpshots and 500 free throws (or more) every single day. His father also understood the system and what it took to get there. Being a D-1 athlete takes 12 month dedication, not just your attention during the season of your respective sport.

So, before we start tossing people under the bus, we have to take all of the facts into consideration.

Personally, I don't know where I would be in my life without the influence of Mr. Jim Henderson.

Regardless of his record as a basketball and (assistant) football coach at Sherman High School, he helped me through a tough time in my life when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1987 when I was a sophomore.

He gave me rides to and from practice, made sure I had something hot to eat when my mother was at the hospital and kept me focused on my studies when I could have easily fallen behind.

I believe winning is important and we should all strive for it.

For me, coach Henderson is my benchmark for what I hope my daughter can experience in athletics. It warmed me like a cup of hot tea on a winter day when my nephew Alex played for him a few years ago. You may forget some of the victories but you will never forget the compassion and guidance of an ole' ball coach who has your back.