By TONY STINNETT
Based on comments posted on the Cannon Courier web site regarding a previous column about Lions Head Coach Matt Rigsby and the job he has done with the program, the point regarding an antiquated grammar school system was misunderstood.
When it was pointed out that Rigsby has to overcome a system that is not up to date with others across the state it seems there are those who believed the thought process was that we need to do away with grammar schools and shift to a middle grades situation.
That wasn’t the point at all. No one is calling for the demolition of Cannon County’s six grammar schools - especially just for the sake of athletics.
The point made was that because of this system it is more difficult for program’s such as Cannon County’s. The Cannon County Schools System is not the only one statewide that utilizes K-through-8 grammar schools as opposed to the middle grades format.
That being said, folks should also realize most programs reaching the region semifinals and beyond are being fed by middle schools, not grammar schools.
Grammar school formats make the jobs of high school coaches more difficult across the board but basketball in Cannon County is affected the most.
Where team sports are concerned football has the Junior Lions. Softball has something similar, as does baseball. It may not be the best system; however, the co-op process does enable student-athletes from each of the six schools to come together and practice and play.
As for basketball, there is no such process. The players compete against one another on six different teams. Chemistry between these players does not exist when they arrive at the high school so not only do coaches have to develop that, but they have to do so while putting in their offensive and defensive schemes.
Again, no one is saying do away with the grammar schools.
There is more than one way to reach similar goals. Personally, it just seems to make the job Rigsby and his staff have done even more impressive.
Ditto for Lionettes Head Coach Michael Dodgen, who has the same system.
Elementary school basketball coaches are absolutely critical to the success of Cannon County basketball and this area is blessed with some outstanding ones.
Research indicates that 28 of the 32 Class AA boys basketball team that reached their respective region semifinal are fed by middle schools. The four that were not are Cannon County, Gatlinburg-Pittman, Lexington and McMinn Central.
Of the 32 Class AA girls basketball teams that reached the region semis, only three did not have a middle grades format.
Speaking of county basketball, players such as Woodland’s Cole George has to like what he sees at Cannon County.
There are those who would say George is too small, too this, too that.
Having seen him at basketball camps and playing at Woodland, George is a winner and a hard worker. Those qualities can’t be measured by size.
What has to excite George and others who may lack overall size, is the fact that two of the top four all-time leading scorers in program history are Justin Davenport (1) and Cory Henley (4).
Davenport and Henley lacked size but made up for it in heart, passion, will and, most importantly, work ethic.
Size can’t prevent work ethic.
Davenport and Henley capped their career as two of the best because they paid a price and sacrificed to be able to play at a high level.
Others will follow but those two are good examples of how far hard work can carry a person, regardless of size.
(Tony Stinnett is sports editor of The Cannon Courier and a three-time Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year.)