Ravenswood native Rob Ely remains connected to sports through faith

Mark Martin
Rob Ely photo

Rob Ely is a man of faith.

He is also a man who has long loved athletics.

Ely grew up playing the youth sports offered in Jackson County while living in the Ravenswood area.

He would ultimately become a Red Devil, competing in both baseball and wrestling at the high school level.

Many years later, Ely, a 1982 Ravenswood High graduate, remains closely involved with sports — primarily basketball.

“I volunteer with Nations of Coaches, an organization out of Decatur, Ala.,” Ely said. “Tommy Kyle had a passion for using basketball to reach people and to be able to share the gospel with people.”

For the last several years, Ely has been a major part of Bryan Poore’s West Virginia State University Yellow Jacket men’s basketball program.

“Roger Adams was at Marshall University for a long time. He was a peer of mine and a college pastor. He got me involved. Roger and Coach Poore had a relationship,” Ely said. “He kind of introduced us and I’m there just to kind of be somebody who cares about kids and works with them, helps with resumes and all of those things. It’s really building character for life.

“Just anything I can do to make them better men. My job is to make them better men. Coach Poore’s job is to make them better basketball players.”

Ely is there for game days and during this time of the year.

“I go to practice more in the offseason when they’re doing workouts and different stuff,” he explained. “I kind of learn the boys and see what’s going on.”

Ely, who now lives in Huntington, got involved with the state men’s basketball program when he was still living in Jackson County.

The bond he has with Poore has been rewarding.

“Coach Poore and I have developed a great relationship. He’s wonderful; we have a good time.”

Ely spent most of his young life on Wilding Road and Utah Road.

He attended First Baptist Church in Ravenswood and said Pastor Ron Stone was quite an influence.

So, too, were coaches at Ravenswood High School.

“Coach (Dale) Hinkle was my wrestling coach. He believed in me and gave me all kinds of opportunities,” Ely said. “Coach (Doug) Parrish with baseball was interested in me.

“And even though I didn’t play basketball, Coach (Mick) Price and I had a really good relationship.”

Ely can’t say enough about the impact the trio of coaches made on his life.

“I’ve always thought those guys did an excellent job for me. They just invested in me. So when I was teaching in public schools, I coached a lot. I’ve always been involved in sports.”

The Ravenswood native feels the circle of athletics is beneficial in a variety of ways.

“I think it’s an incredible platform to be able to share with people,” he said. “And obviously my goal is to be able to share Christ with people.

“That’s what I look forward to being able to invest in their lives. I want to help them when things are going good and help them when things are going bad.”

After graduation from Ravenswood, Ely attended Marshall University and majored in physical education and science. It is Marshall where he met his wife Beth, a Charleston native and George Washington graduate.

“When we graduated, I got a job in Kanawha County where she is from and she got a job in Jackson where I am from,” Ely said laughing.

The couple first resided in St. Albans.

Ely coached junior high girls basketball at Sissonville and later high school baseball at GW.

He taught for three years while his wife did so for 17. His wife coached middle school cross country at Ravenswood for several years.

Beth Ely is now the office manager for the Campus Christian Center on the Marshall University campus.

Rob Ely left teaching to enter the ministry full-time. He spent nine years at Highlawn Baptist Church in St. Albans.

In 1996, he went to work for the West Virginia Baptist Convention, serving as director of student ministries.

He serves Marshall daily as the director for Baptist Campus Ministries.

“We do services in small groups for kids on campus,” he said.

He conducts services at various churches in the region each Sunday.

“Wherever my grey Subaru takes me,” he said laughing. “I had an office in Parkersburg and travelled a little more when we lived in Jackson County.”

Ely continues to stay active in the summer running the West Virginia Baptist Camp in the Webster County community of Cowan.

The Elys are the proud parents of two sons, R.L. and Andrew, who are both married.

“They are Ravenswood graduates and live a dog’s walk from our home in Huntington,” Ely noted.

The Baptist Campus Ministry is “changing lives to change the world,” according to Ely.

He said the Baptist Campus Ministry is “one of those things that people invested in me and gave me the opportunity to speak in churches, preach and do different things."

Being with Nations of Coaches has been a blessing.

“It’s really opened some doors down here for me. I get to do some team-bonding and different things through different sports down here at Marshall.

“It’s meant so much to stay involved in athletics. The coaches down here (at Marshall) have given me incredible opportunities to work with their teams.”

Ely’s Baptist Campus Ministry at Marshall is one of nine at colleges and universities in the Mountain State.

He also supervises all the others.

“God’s just continued to give me opportunities.”

And with each one, Rob Ely has tried to make the world a better place through athletics, and certainly most of all ... his faith.