Players, coaches form life-long bonds on the field

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gary Parnham Jr. has never escaped the influence of his high school football coach. And he doesn’t want that fact to change.

Parnham, like dozens upon dozens of other young boys who grew up in Vidalia, played football for Dee Faircloth. After high school Parnham headed to Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., but he didn’t stay away from Vidalia for long.

“The first thing I thought of when I decided to teach and coach is, I have to go back to Vidalia High School,” Parnham said. “Who better to learn from than a living legend in the state of Louisiana, as far as years and experience?”

But admiration for Faircloth’s legacy of success in Concordia Parish was probably only part of the tug Parnham felt as he headed back to Vikings territory.

The young coach-to-be shared a bond with Faircloth that only coaches and players can have.

And everywhere you look in the Miss-Lou, that bond is forming.

Adams County Christian School Lady Rebels’ standout Marlee Wadsworth looks no further than her coach’s office when life deals a hard blow.

Coach Melanie Hall is always ready with a listening ear.

“Anytime I’m having a down day, I go talk to her about it, and she always says, ‘I’m praying for you,’ and, ‘Don’t let anybody bring you down.’”

Hall takes her relationship with her players seriously, and works hard to encourage them in everything they do.

“She always tells me I’m the best center in our district,” Wadsworth said. “I don’t know. I don’t want to be conceited or anything, but she always tells me that.”

When it comes down to her relationship with her players, Hall said her job doesn’t end with fundamentals and formations.

“I’ve always said it’s more than Xs and Os,” Hall said. “It’s the lessons that (God is) teaching us through (the game) that are important.”

And the coach must become not only the boss on the court, but a teacher, mentor, family member and counselor, Hall said.

“If we don’t know our players and can’t recognize when they’re down or have a problem, then I’ve failed. It’s all about them,” Hall said. “They’re not just ball players, but they’re family.”

That’s certainly true, Cathedral football coach Craig Beesley said, and often he sees his players more than he sees his own family. The same goes for the players.

“We’re around the kids so much,” Beesley said. “They’re probably around us more than they are with their parents, so we try to be good role models for them, and teach them the right way to do things. I think they pick up on that a lot more than people believe.

“That’s a big part about the coach’s life, to be around the kids that he’s coaching and teaching. I take pride in that, I enjoy being around them, and I enjoy being a role model for young kids.”

And if there’s a trick to being a good role model, Beesley said, it’s that actions speak louder than words.

“It’s not always what you say, it’s what you do,” Beesley said. “They pick up on your actions more than they do your words.”

Parnham is living proof that the players are watching and learning.

Something that stands out to him today is just how dedicated Faircloth was to his players all those years ago.

“On Thanksgiving break, Christmas break and in the summer, he was always up here changing the sprinklers or cleaning up the locker room,” Parnham said. “He did it all for his players. The devotion he made to the program, I don’t know many coaches that would do that.”

And that’s exactly the lesson 42-year head coach Faircloth said he’s been trying to teach all these years.

“I just hope they see the importance of helping these kids like I helped them and being able to teach them to work hard and stay focused on their goals,” he said.