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Simmons Says - Coaches are home grown

Warren County teams seem to do pretty well when coached by Warren County alums.

This is not breaking news – I’ve probably written this in some form or fashion multiple times over the years. It just has been reiterated as I’ve been working on coaching spotlights lately during the coronavirus shutdown. 

The latest - Gooby Martin – is probably one of the most interesting stories. Martin is one of the most famous past Pioneer players, considering there’s only a handful of Warren County alumni who went on to play professionally like he did. And yet, his coaching success doesn’t come in the sport where he excelled.

He traded diamonds, moving from baseball to softball. I know there’s plenty that would say that’s an easy transition, but Martin will be the first to tell you it isn’t. There is still a ball, a bat and bases, but the game – and the strategy – is much different.

Still, he’s won championships in three straight years, including the first region championship for the school in a few years. He’s been a home-run hire since taking over in 2015.

Martin’s hiring – coupled with Chris Sullens taking over the boys basketball team in 2014 – started a wave of alumni coming back to Warren County. Currently at the high school, football, girls soccer, volleyball (with the recent hiring of Erin Blalock), boys basketball, softball and baseball are all team sports being coached by former Pioneers or Lady Pioneers. 

Those teams have provided some of the biggest recent sports moments and all seem to be trending up as well.

Before I go in depth, let me say that Matt Jackson and Anthony Lippe were my top choices for the jobs they currently hold (boys soccer and girls basketball, respectively). And there’s good coaches – and alums – leading the sports which lean on the individual to accrue team points (tennis, golf and track, for example).

They’re all Warren County family too. They just had to do it a different way.

For guys like Martin, Sullens, Phillip King, Todd Willmore and Matt Turner, they already knew the landscape when they took the jobs. It helped them immensely too, especially compared to predecessors who – in some cases - came in blind.

Take Turner as an example. When he took the job, he wasn’t focused immediately on the schemes. He wasn’t working tirelessly to out think his competition. He went straight into the classrooms and started pulling the kids out who needed to be on the field.

He knew – like most everybody had said for years – that there was football talent not playing. Turner was a Pioneer – he could sell perspective players on what it meant to put on the jersey.

Same for Sullens, who just led the Pioneers to a district title. King may have added hardware this fall on the diamond if not for the shutdown.

I’ve not always been ecstatic with the coaching – or hiring – in Warren County. I can say, right now, we may have assembled the best group of coaches across the board at WCHS in my 10 years of coverage.

And they did it by staying local most of the time.