Volunteer Bruce Ross, left, helps Adams County Christian School assistant football coach Richy Spears measure for the installation of underground sprinklers Saturday morning on the football practice field behind ACCS. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Volunteer Bruce Ross, left, helps Adams County Christian School assistant football coach Richy Spears measure for the installation of underground sprinklers Saturday morning on the football practice field behind ACCS. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Local schools rely on volunteers to assist athletic programs

Published 12:01am Sunday, August 11, 2013

NATCHEZ — You might call Bruce Ross a jack-of-all-trades, at least when it comes to his dedication to Adams County Christian School sports.

Whether he’s keeping stats for the Rebels on Friday nights or helping the team install a sprinkler system on the football practice field, Ross said he would do whatever is needed to help out.

“I enjoy being around the game — it’s why I keep stats, and I volunteer because it helps the school out,” Ross said.

Fans attending a high school football game may not stop to think about the amount of hours that go into making Friday nights what they are. But ticket sales, concession stands, announcing and keeping stats are just several game-day activities that require volunteers dedicating their time. There is more to the game than just the game itself, and nobody knows this better than the football coaches.

Ross has two children at ACCS, a son, Brandon, who plays football and a daughter, Sara, who cheers. But Ross said it’s not just his children that motivate him to assist with athletics.

Jacob Wilson, 13, uses a weed-whacker Saturday morning to clear vines of kudzu from the fencing around the football stadium at Adams County Christian School. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Jacob Wilson, 13, uses a weed-whacker Saturday morning to clear vines of kudzu from the fencing around the football stadium at Adams County Christian School. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

“I kept high school stats when (Brandon) was in JV ball,” Ross said. “You always have to have volunteers, because the extra stuff wouldn’t get done — none of it. What schools in the area could afford to hire full maintenance crews?”

Cathedral High School counts on its C-Club for most of their game day preparation, and Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing said without this club, the football program would be nonexistent.

“They help get everything set up for the football games,” Rushing said. “They get the lines together for tickets, they run the concession stands, and they do a little bit of everything else.

“They spend as many hours as the coaches do getting everything done.”

Rushing said the club members, which number approximately 40, show true unselfishness in the efforts they put forth.

“We wouldn’t nearly have all the things we do without them,” Rushing said. “A lot of people take the football games for granted, but they wouldn’t have the concession stands or anything without the C-Club.”

The fans, or players, also wouldn’t have the white lines on the field if it weren’t for the C-Club vice president Barry Iseminger.

Iseminger has been a part of the C-Club since 2006, and he said the club dedicates four to six hours before every home game to field maintenance.

“We keep the field in shape,” Iseminger said. “We mow the grass, weed the fields, clean the trash out of the bleachers and paint the numbers and hash marks on the field.”

Iseminger said he doesn’t mind the hard work because he takes pride in Cathedral, and he knows it helps the coaches out.

“I’ve been to several away games, and I think we have one of the best fields in Class 1A,” Iseminger said. “Doing these things takes a lot of pressure off the coaches. They have enough on their hands with the team.”

Concession stands also require a lot of time, and local athletic programs rely heavily on the profits concessions bring in.

Natchez High football coach Lance Reed said the women of the Natchez High booster club — called the “Touchdown Club” — make a big difference to a program that has been struggling financially by doing things like selling concessions.

“Our school district really cut funding for extra-curricular activities,” Reed said. “We’re working on a limited amount of funds, and to make up for what we don’t have, the booster club raises money.”

Reed said if it weren’t for the booster club, there would be a lack of football equipment, and there would be no awards banquet at the end of the season.

Shawnette Cheatham is the secretary of the touchdown club, and she said concessions make a big difference for the school.

“During a good rival game, we might make around $3,000 off of the concession stand, and it really helps a lot,” Cheatham said.

The Touchdown Club consists of players’ parents, but Cheatham said she wishes more parents would get involved in the many activities the club does.

Cheatham’s son, Derrian Johnson, graduated in 2012 with a football scholarship to Jackson State University, but she said she still helps with the booster club because of the urgency of funds needed.

LaShandra Davis is also a member of the Touchdown Club, and she said she helps sell ads, raffle tickets and conducts car washes all in the name of NHS football.

“I do it to see the smiles on the player’s faces,” Davis said. “I also do it because it cuts down a lot on the things the coaches have to do.”

Reed said he couldn’t express how vital the Touchdown Club is to him and the program.

“I think it’s tremendous that they come and help us every way they can,” Reed said. “I really believe the more connected the team, the parents and the teachers are, the better the school and the program is.”

Trinity Episcopal Day School football coach Josh Loy said a small school like Trinity must rely heavily on volunteers in order to maintain its sports program.

Not only do they utilize volunteers for the concession stand, they also rely heavily on them within the team.

“We have two volunteer coaches on the staff in Ryan Rachal and Robbie Savant,” Loy said. “They both came in last year when we needed the help, and they’re both very knowledgeable about the game.”

Rachal won a state championship with Trinity and decided to come back to share his experiences with the players.

“He can’t be here every day, but when he is, he helps with skill positions and our wide receivers,” Loy said.

Savant is Loy’s father-in-law, and Loy said he is the players’ favorite coach.

Savant played football for Louisiana Tech in 1974, and he said joining the Trinity staff was an easy choice.

“It’s great, and I love the kids,” Savant said. “I have no problems with them at all. The group we’ve got loves to play football.”

Savant said he coaches the offensive and defensive linemen and teaches them the fundamentals of the game.

“I teach them how to get in a stance, how to block and how to tackle,” Savant said. “Once you put in plays, the basics are what it comes down to.”

Savant said he hopes his players grasp more than just the fundamentals from him.

“I hope that I’m a good influence for the kids and I get them to play at the best of their ability,” Savant said.