From the Editor’s Desk: Sometimes, a forfeit isn’t a bad thing

Published 12:01 am Friday, November 17, 2023

They knew what they did was wrong. It was clear as crystal on each of their faces as they handed in jerseys, turned in helmets and equipment. And while the head coach for the Quarterback Club wasn’t beloved at that time in 2015, his actions helped a group of students for the better. 

About a decade ago, I was running the newspapers in the Shenandoah Valley for BH Media, living in Waynesboro. At the time, a situation caught my attention and I started putting together a story about it. Bear with me for some storytime, because it applies to an issue we’re dealing with here as well. 

The year, as I mentioned, was 2015. It had been a fantastic season for the Waynesboro Quarterback Club. The team of 12 and 13-year-olds made it to the playoffs and even to the regional semi-finals, farther than any local squad had in more than a decade. And yet, the team’s coach forfeited the game against Riverheads, because a majority of players had broken his cardinal rules. Now Jim Wood had two rules for his team. You had to show up for school in order to play and you had to make an effort in class, with no Fs allowed. 

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It’s a rule he laid out from before the beginning of the season, something brought up in training camp. If you wanted to play for the Waynesboro Quarterback Club, you couldn’t get an F on the final report card and your butt had to be in that seat in class. The reason is that when Wood took over the team, there wasn’t much discipline.

“Some kids, my first year with the group, they were flunking out of school, they were getting expelled and suspended, but still playing,” Wood said at the time, in an interview he did with me for the Waynesboro News Virginian. “It doesn’t make any sense to reward them with athletics, if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to. A kid’s job first is to go to school.” 

Members of that 2015 team didn’t believe him. After all, they were in the regional playoffs. He wouldn’t do anything. They were wrong. 

Calling to account 

Wood called the team together and made the announcement at practice one day. He let them know that teachers had informed him of their failing grades and of some who just decided they didn’t have to show up for class at all. He then reminded them of the rule and made each of those who broke it turn in their equipment. One by one, they did it. There were some tears and irate parents, one of which sent me an email I still have, accusing Wood of ruining her son’s chance at “an NBA scholarship”. No, that’s not a typo. Yes, I’m aware the NBA doesn’t give scholarships, especially for football. 

She went on in the email to say it was a dumb rule that Woods had put in play. She herself had dropped out of high school after ninth grade. And if her son couldn’t get millions for playing sports, an achievement she expected “any day now”, well then, she didn’t see the point in having him show up for class. He could just play X-Box at home. But this isn’t a story about kids dropping out. Most of the other parents understood what Woods was doing. Most of the kids remembered the lesson. 

When the next year rolled around, there were no Fs on Quarterback Club players report cards. And somehow, through sheer magic, none of them were chronically absent either. I’d later find out most of those kids kept it up through high school. Some are even suiting up now for a number of Virginia universities on Saturdays. And I’d argue that started with Jim Woods and his decision. The players learned actions have consequences and they didn’t like how that felt. It apparently motivated some parents as well.  

‘The rest of the story’ 

And maybe that’s what it takes here. Now I know nobody wants to be the bad guy. Nobody wants to take things away or hand down rough judgements. But sometimes, it’s necessary. There are students who have missed 30, 40 and even 50 days of class over the last year in Prince Edward County. They’re not sick. They’re not staying home in protest. There’s no disability at play. I’ve had parents flat out just tell me they don’t make their child go to class. “If he wants to go, he goes,” one said.

There comes a point where all the commercials in the world, all the Facebook posts and announcements about how bad this is, how this isn’t helpful, they just don’t work anymore. 

I’m not saying just pull the rug out from under the students this minute. I’m saying ‘hey, if you want to play sports, you have to show up for class’ or ‘hey, if you want to go on this field trip or take part in that club, you’ve got to be in your seat X number of days.’ That’s not being cruel, as some folks have said. That’s letting them know if they want to take part, they have to follow the rules.

BRIAN CARLTON is the editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia, LLC. He can be reached at