Local coaches honored in documentary

Published 12:08 am Thursday, February 24, 2011

NATCHEZ — Duncan Park Tennis Director Henry Harris started with a friend’s idea, and over a period of several decades, turned it into a program that helps local athletes improve their tennis skills.

Because of his work with children, Harris is one of seven coaches being honored in a Copiah-Lincoln Community College documentary that will be shown to the public Friday night.

Co-Lin’s Natchez campus filmed “Behind the Whistle: A Coach’s Story” for showing in the 2011 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, which is themed “Field of Dreams: Sports in the South.”

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Along with Harris, ACCS girls basketball coach Melanie Hall, Natchez High football coach Lance Reed, Cathedral baseball coach Craig Beesley, former Cathedral football coach Ken Beesley, former Vidalia High football coach Dee Faircloth and former Vidalia baseball coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir will be recognized in the film.

“It’s very nice to be in the same field with the other coaches chosen to do it,” Harris said.

“All of them are great people, and there are a lot more great coaches out there. We couldn’t get them all, so hopefully this is the start of all their stories getting told of them working with kids.”

Harris was already shown a private viewing of the film, and he said it was great to look back on the work he’s done with local tennis players over the years.

“We wanted to give black kids another sport, so we took kids from Marilyn Heights, Holiday Apartments, Cedarhurst and Williams Apartments,” Harris said. “Mr. Arthur Porter came up with the idea and said, ‘Lets see what we can do.’

“It was just a thought, but God blessed me and gave me the strength to carry it out. Unfortunately, Arthur was killed in an auto accident before he could see it all work.”

Mark LaFrancis, director of public information at Co-Lin’s Natchez campus, said the documentary would also be shown to Natchez High School students at 8 Friday morning.

“We hope to get a rousing response at both Friday showings, otherwise we wouldn’t have made the film,” LaFrancis said. “But the Natchez High students have a unique perspective, because they’ve worked with several of the coaches featured.”

LaFrancis said he chose the coaches honored after casual conversations with Concordia Sentinel Sports Editor Joey Martin and others.

“We could have selected several dozen, but I believe the selection we have is wonderful,” he said.

“For years, I had admired and respected so many wonderful coaches in the Miss-Lou, and I thought they’d make a nice documentary that would reveal their hearts and souls as people and coaches.”

Co-Lin film students began working on the film with LaFrancis in April 2010, and the film was put together for less than $1,000, LaFrancis said.

“It’s wonderful to be at a school that allows us to take on a project like this and complete it,” he said. “It shows what a small community college can accomplish with limited equipment, limited funds and rookie filmmakers.”