About 100 people made it out to welcome new Red Raider football coach Ryan Sulkowski Saturday.
I’m pretty sure that’s the average attendance of Raider fans all of last season – and that’s counting the band.
All jokes aside, I’m glad that the community seems to have jumped in line behind this guy to make him feel welcome and offer any available assistance. After so many years of losing (six straight losing seasons at Carden-Jarrell Field) it’s easy to let the pessimism poison seep in.
I understand the need to approach this situation with cautious optimism considering recent history. But, moving forward, I hope this community excitement and hope that is ever so palpable only continues to grow and filter into the football program.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither will the Red Raider football program that is seemingly in shambles after a regime of lackadaisical leadership. Players will not only need guidance in the X’s and O’s but in strength training, discipline and simply learning how to win.
Don’t overlook that last one.
When you’ve been told for so long that you are bad, that your program is bad, you become the butt of jokes around town, it only takes so long before you start believing it and turn in a 0-10 campaign. The mind of a 15 or 16-year-old kid is fragile and very vulnerable to influence – good or bad.
Sulkowski’s toughest obstacle may very well not be beating Tullahoma or Franklin County, but restarting the minds of upcoming senior, junior and sophomore classes that have been on the bad end of losses and community mockery.
It is Sulkowski’s challenge to face. But it is our responsibility, as a community, to do what we can to make sure he, and the players, aren’t in this alone.
-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He is a Tennessee Press Association award-winning writer and photographer. His column, “From the editor’s desk” won TPA first-place honors for best personal humor column. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29