Parents complain to board about coach

Published 2:17 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Eleven people — including parents of Buckingham High School football players — criticized the ability and leadership of Head Varsity Football Coach Josh Wallace during the county school board’s Oct. 12 meeting.

Speakers questioned Wallace’s concern for players’ safety and treatment of students and claimed he shows a lack of support for the team. The varsity team — led by Wallace and six assistant coaches, only one of whom returned from last season — has seen numerous injuries in recent games.

The Knights varsity football team, which holds a 1-7 record, is coming off a 2015 season in which it went 10-2 and reached the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year. A talented senior class led by Leon Ragland graduated, which meant the Knights had big shoes to fill this season in its starting lineup.

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Longtime and beloved coach Craig Gill died after battling cancer this year, creating the vacancy Wallace filled.

“There are several parents here … that have some concerns about the coaching staff and how this season has been carried out thus far,” said parent Stacy Hafley, whose son had been playing for Wallace.

“A few weeks ago, my son was injured in practice,” she told the board, noting that he sustained a “severe concussion” and was unable to attend school.

She showed the board examples of her son’s handwriting before and after his injury, contrasting his penmanship.

“This is the seriousness of his injuries,” she said.

Hafley said she had concerns about the players’ safety and how coaches handled it.

“I know there are things taking place that shouldn’t,” she said, citing players leading with their heads during games.

She noted that, from an academic standpoint, the division has followed state protocol in dealing with her son’s injury.

“As far as the athletic department is concerned, not so much,” Hafley said.

She cited a lack of follow-up from Wallace regarding her son’s injury.

“I really feel like this coach doesn’t have the players’ safety in mind,” she said, claiming Wallace “made light” of her son’s injury while visiting him.

Numbers have been down this year for the varsity program compared to 2015. This year, Buckingham had a roster in mid-August of 25 players, while the Knights, at a similar point last year, had 34 players.

The team has been ravaged by injuries at different points this season, and at one point, practiced all week with only 13 players healthy enough to be in pads.

Injuries again greatly impacted the Knights in its Oct. 7 game against host Goochland High School when defensive linemen Javon Jones, Brandon Moseley and Brycen Newby were involved in a collision that resulted in them being carried off the field in stretchers and transported via ambulance to MCV Hospital in Richmond.

Wallace has also cited disciplinary issues as having led to lost playing time for players, including several starters.

“I was not present at the school board meeting on Oct. 12,” Wallace said in response to the comments. “However, during times of transition, opportunities arise for us to reflect on and grow from. My staff and players are continuing to work hard on and off the field in an effort to develop each of us holistically as we move forward in our season.”

Wallace declined to address specific concerns raised during the meeting.

“I just want answers and I’m not getting them,” said Kathy Holman, whose son, Rajheem — the team’s star running back — didn’t play in the Friday, Oct. 14, game.

Holman alleged that someone from the school division posted negatively about her son on social media.

She said she felt “blown away” and had been going from person to person trying to get answers about her son.

“This has been the worst I’ve seen it in the whole 12 years,” said Kevin Locket, who went to Prince Edward County High School, where he played football, but now lives in Buckingham.

He said he didn’t know how personal information about Rajheem was released “before we … knew about it.”

“I feel like this coach is not for the kids because, if you’re for the kids and your kid gets hurt, you would check on them. This coach not one time stepped on the field,” Lockett said, referring to a player getting injured in the first game of the season.

According to Lockett, during the Knights’ homecoming game, when they were being shut out by another team, coaches high-fived and “danced” on the sideline when a student fell in the mud face down.

“You ain’t showing them kids no respect … I don’t even know why he’s here … It’s just got me torn,” Locket said.

Margaret Terry said it was her son’s first year playing football.

“I feel like the new coach y’all have hired has run off all the coaches that have been coaching for … years. We’re dealing with a lot of injuries and not getting any results,” Terry said before asking the board to reconsider the coaching staff.

“Please hear us parents. We are concerned about our kids,” said Meredith Chambers. “I’ve never seen a coach turn around and argue with the parents on the sideline. And that parent was me … They want to play, but they want to turn their back on the way this coach has no respect for these kids … It’s just like he doesn’t care for our kids.”

Chambers’ son is in his senior year, she said, and has played football for four years.

Donna Davis, who also spoke, said her son, JaMir, has been playing football for years.

“This year the coach will take it out on the child,” she said of parents’ voicing issues. “My son was the child that got hurt at that first game … Nobody called me. One of the parents volunteered to call me … No coach called me and told me he was hurt.”

“With the head coach of this football program, I feel that the leadership from him is extremely poor. I feel that he accepts no responsibility for his team,” said Kathryn Davis.

She said while she knew the transition from Gill to Wallace would take time, the program had become “demoralized.”

“To see what the coach has done … demoralizes them. They don’t want to play,” said Aaron Flowers.

Bernice Ayers said her son, Sean, a senior, was benched by Wallace.

“I need that scholarship. My son needs that scholarship,” she said, citing scouts for colleges being at the games, defended Rajheem, and told the board, “Do the right thing.”

Kevin Ayers, a youth football coach, said the players were being mistreated.

“He (Gill) would have never done nothing like that,” he said.

“We can’t comment on anything that was said,” School Board Chairman and District Five representative Sherry S. Ragland said following the public comment portion of the meeting. “We have heard you; we’ve taken notes. And we’ll just talk about it, OK?”

The board entered closed session at the end of its meeting, discussing personnel, student discipline and public contracts. No action pertaining to the team’s staff was taken.

“Just as with any public comment session, administration is giving due diligence as it always does in terms of comments made at any public comment session,” said Division Superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead.