Back to Back: Prince Edward Middle earns second straight title

Published 7:45 am Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Coach Louis Gould III had a simple rule: in order to perform on the court, you have to perform in the classroom. And that’s exactly what happened for the players at Prince Edward Middle School. To be a part of the basketball team, they had to not just earn it in practice, but they had to show up and do the work in class. Both paid off, as the students came back with higher grades and secured the conference championship for a second straight year. 

“People think winning a championship is cool,” Gould said. “The overall feeling, it’s an ending goal, an ending result for a team that gave up Christmas break for games, gave up Thanksgiving break for practices. They gave up their Sunday afternoons. It just felt good, to show them all that hard work paid off.” 

It meant a little extra for Gould as this was the last time he’ll coach 10 of the players, who will be moving up to high school in the fall. He’s been with them through most of their childhood, starting with youth league about six years ago. Then, in addition to his job as a history teacher at the middle school and head football coach, a couple years ago Gould added middle school basketball coach to his resume as well. 

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“It’s not just for them, but it feels good as a coach when you see them demonstrating all the stuff they’ve been taught,” Gould said. “I had nine of them since youth league. Zack Johnston, for example, I’ve been coaching since he was eight. Being able to see them all grow and learn the game has been awesome.” 

Earning it in the classroom 

The thing about sports, Gould said, is that sometimes it helps students apply themselves in the classroom. For some kids that otherwise might not care as much about their final grade, knowing their spot on the basketball court depends on trying their best in the classroom makes a difference. 

“All of them, they knew they couldn’t play with bad grades, that’s not how we do,” Gould said. “We had kids scrambling, working to get those grades up. They definitely showed they wanted to be part of the program, by the effort they put in.”  

The team didn’t lose a single player to bad grades. For most, Gould said, they just accepted it as another part of practice. In order to be a good player, they had to be good students. 

“They did everything possible to get where they are now, being disciplined, showing out not just in practice but in the classroom. They pushed themselves every day.” 

Developing a culture at Prince Edward Middle

Middle school is a step, Gould said. 

“You want that team to stay together in high school and go for a state championship, absolutely,” he said. “But my goal is also to get that fire started, to help them understand things about hard work and effort, so they can keep going in life.” 

And this year’s squad responded. The pressure was on, Gould said, since they won the conference title last year and returned 10 eighth graders. They beat Central Middle School on Tuesday, Feb. 6, to claim the Southside Conference Championship. A conference championship is the big one in middle school, as there’s not a regional or state competition. 

For many of them, Gould said, now he gets to watch their games as a spectator, as they move on to compete for the Eagles in the fall. 

“Hopefully they’re going to keep on and keep winning and bring another district championship to Prince Edward County,” Gould said.

And don’t count Prince Edward Middle out for a three-peat. Gould said he’s got some strong seventh graders returning and he’s looking forward to new faces moving up, new players that will learn for this team, you practice in two places. And the classroom is just as important as the basketball court.