When Ronald Coursey spoke about becoming the next York High athletic director, he mentioned his discovery of the school’s rich tradition during his research.
Coursey, approved as AD in February to replace Joe Chiodi, laid out his vision for the future of York High sports during Wednesday's school board meeting.
He spoke of wanting to grow the department through a plan that raises standards, restores tradition, builds on history and establishes meaningful partnerships with the community.
“The way we do that is by raising standards of student-athletes, holding them more accountable,” Coursey said. “And as a result, when they meet those standards, reward them with enhanced facilities, equipment, so on and so forth. It’s us building on a great tradition and history and just taking it to the next level.”
Stoner hired: One of the newest changes to the athletic department was announced during part of the meeting after Coursey’s presentation, when the board introduced new Bearcat head football coach Russ Stoner.
Stoner, who took last season off from coaching, returns to the York-Adams League, where he has spent 20 years coaching between Spring Grove and Central York. He was approved by the school board on Wednesday, according to Coursey.
“I’m excited,” Stoner said. “Being out of football for the last year has re-motivated me and gave me a chance to recharge my batteries.”
Stoner began his coaching career with the Panthers and served until 2011 as an assistant under legendary coach Brad Livingston. From 2011 until 2014, Stoner served as head coach of the Rockets amassing an 18-25 overall record, with a 7-15 mark in York-Adams Division I play.
Spring Grove won the division title in 2012, just one season after a 1-9 campaign in Stoner’s first year at the helm.
Stoner takes over for Shawn Heinold, who went 17-44 in six seasons as Bearcats coach, including an 0-10 record this past year.
“We really appreciated his experience in coaching,” Coursey said of the Stoner. “We really appreciated his philosophy on how to build a program and we feel like he will be the best fit going forward for York High.”
Stoner, who starred on the playing field at West York, answered “the kids” when asked what drew him to the position.
“I’m a York County native and I grew up in West York and I battled my whole entire youth career against kids from South York and York Boys’ Club, and that’s some of the greatest memories I have. And to be able to go coach York High is just an awesome feeling to have,” he said.
In the short term, Stoner said his goal is to get acclimated to the program and bring the kids up to speed on the new expectations for it.
“It’s a blank canvas,” Stoner said of the program. “I’m anxious to get them started into a routine with academics, in the weight room, learning how to compete on every play. I’m interested in us building something everyone can be proud of.”
In the long term, Stoner hopes to get more players into collegiate programs. A big part of that will be new academic standards that Coursey proposed at Wednesday’s meeting.
Raising the standards: Coursey proposed the school go beyond what the PIAA requires of athletes to maintain eligibility.
Under Coursey’s plan, student athletes will be expected to maintain a weekly grade-point average of 2.5 and a grade of ‘F’ in any course comes with a week of ineligibility.
“Kids will rise to the occasion if you set a higher standard for them,” Coursey said. “If we set the bar high enough, we’ll never have to worry about the star athlete meeting the requirements for his scholarship.”
The goal is to help more kids get into college programs, and the newly-hired Stoner was in total support of Coursey’s plan
“I love it,” Stoner said. “For me, I like the idea. I do a lot with recruiting, and the first thing everyone wants to know is the academic piece. (Coursey) is right, most kids just need to be challenged and they will rise to the occasion.”
Currently, the PIAA only requires a student be passing four full credit subjects to be deemed eligible.
Coursey is also proposing the implementation of a student-athlete handbook. This will encompass such things as an expected code of conduct, eligibility requirements, attendance and anti-hazing policies, as well as other items.
Restoring sports: A number of previously cut programs are slated to make their return in the near future according to Coursey. He outlined those sports, beginning with the return of baseball and competitive cheerleading starting in the 2016-17 school year.
In 2017-18, the Bearcats will again compete in boys' and girls' soccer, softball, wrestling and boys' and girls' tennis. The next year will see the reinstatement of cross country.
Fundraising and partnerships with the community will be key to fostering this growth, Coursey said.
He informed the board he was currently in talks with York College about a partnership with the Bearcats' soccer program in regard to field usage. A mentoring program between the schools' student-athletes was also discussed.
The baseball program is looking to form a partnership with the York Revolution for field usage, as well as help from the Revs in restoring the baseball diamond at Small Athletic Field.
One way Coursey proposed the school could go about bringing in funds was through seeking an apparel deal. Such a deal provides a mutually beneficial relationship where a maker, such as Nike or Under Armour, receives the marketing from outfitting teams; while the school saves money through discounts on needed gear.
Sowers honored: Before Coursey’s presentation, the board took a moment to read a proclamation honoring former York High boys' basketball coach Troy Sowers for his accomplishments during his time at the school.
Sowers resigned in February after 10 seasons at York High that included three District 3-AAAA titles, among many other accomplishments.
He received a standing ovation from the crowd as he embraced each member of the board before giving his own speech.
During his speech of thanks and reflection, Sowers personally stumped for his former assistant, Clovis Gallon, to succeed him as leader of the program.
Sowers credited Gallon’s high character, knowledge of the game and the way he cares for the city of York as reasons he should get the job.
After the meeting, Coursey said his department is now beginning the task of searching for and interviewing candidates for the boys’ basketball coaching vacancy.
Coursey said that the school was behind in hiring a football coach and that was the first priority.
“No headway, haven’t started yet,” Coursey said when asked the status of process. “The main priority was getting a football coach, we were behind the eight ball there. Now we will transition into opening the position and conducting interviews.”
When asked if any names were on a potential short list, Coursey replied “Absolutely nothing to report as of yet.”
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org