Coaches voice opinion on drug testing

   Should drug testing be mandatory with our high school student athletes?
   Last week, I talked about different situations with performance enhancement drugs and how mandatory general drug tests could save the lives and future of several athletes in general.
   I spoke with four area coaches on the subject and each of them agrees that it would be a deterrent for high school athletes in general.
   In this area, several communities identify with their small schools and pride their selves with their athletic programs. It would set an example for younger kids and keep athletes clean for sports.
   There are several questions revolving around the topic. But every coach agreed that if it saved the life of one person, the program would be worth it.
   "I'm without a doubt one-hundred percent behind it," said Unaka boys basketball coach Donald Ensor. "Not trying to put anymore burdens on the administration for funding these things, but if they really want to try to help the students and student athletes it is one of the most effective ways.
   "I don't think it would solve every problem, but if it saves one it's worth it," he said. "It may affect many lives down the road. I just think nothing but positives could come out of it in Carter County. It may take a border line kid who may try it and make them say no to play ball."
   Some coaches feel that it should be done statewide instead of singling out a certain county or certain schools.
   "I think it would be fairer if it were a statewide thing," said Cloudland football coach Mike Lunsford. "I don't think anyone in this county would lose anybody now, but I don't see how anybody could be against it.
   "In college and the pros, there are some kids that are not going to be allowed to play," he said. "As a coach, that is a hole hit on your team--but if it helped a kid to stop doing it, it would definitely be worth it."
   Said Hampton football coach J.C. Campbell: "We've not had an effect of it in recent years. Our athletes have been pretty good kids. Just the thought of it would be a good deterrent and I wouldn't oppose it. If there were a situation here where kids have been doing it, I would want it."
   Other county and city systems in this area have implemented the program and it has done great things. Having a program like that in Carter County would generate respect from outside communities.
   "It's a great idea, unfortunately what curbs it from being mandatory is the cost of it," Happy Valley football coach Stan Ogg said. "We had school wide testing for athletes when I was in Greeneville. You always heard good things from it and I think it works. I would be one hundred percent for it if the schools could implement it, but the costs draw back.
   A definite question that came into play was the costs of the testing and the frequency of the tests in a school year.
   "Financially, we don't have the means as a larger school and we can't offer everything academically, but we can do this and help more," said Ensor. "We don't have a problem now, but there may be one or two down the road that you could save."
   Added Campbell: "It's bound to affect some people and some county systems.
   Just the thought of who's paying for it, because some athletic departments could suffer maybe."
   Most of the coaches felt that athletics in general has kept a lot of
   student-athletes from doping or doing drugs.
   "Athletics has kept a lot of kids from doing it," Lunsford added. "I never did them and a big reason for that was athletics and my mom. As a coach, we hope we can be a positive influence on the kids.
   "Hopefully, the kids know I don't condone it and know where I stand on things," he said. "There have been some kids who did it and got out of it later and thanked me for staying on their case."
   Lunsford feels that coaches and other faculty members should also test if a system were in place to not single certain people out.
   "The idea sounds good," he said. "But I think that coaches, normal teachers and students who participate in other school activities should do it as well because you don't want any kid there to do drugs. I don't think we should hold the athletes to a higher standard than everyone else."
   The process of picking up testing for a county system would take a lot of research and work amongst the coaching community.
   Said Ogg: "I don't know much about it because I've seen it in one school that I've been a part of. Overall, you see it in the NCAA and it's a good thing and doesn't necessarily single kids out. It's a deterrent that gets people help if there's a problem.
   Ensor is a firm believer in the program and feels that it would set a strong example for the future of the county programs in general.
   "As coaches, we're in it for the kids," he said. "If we really are, let's do something about it and this is a great opportunity. It would show the parents that it's something we stand behind that will help their child."
   NOTE: Any parents or members of the community who would like to voice their opinion on the subject may feel free to e-mail me at with comments and feedback on county-wide or a statewide policy.
   Elizabethton,s Vince Redd and Cloudland,s Tara Hanson were honored this past week with their All-State selections from the Tennessee Sportswriters Association.
   Redd earned a spot in the AA boys group as one of the top ten players in that classification. Hanson, the Watauga Valley MVP, was a leading vote-getter in the Single-A girls vote, becoming one of only five Lady 'Landers to achieve All-State first team status.
   Todd Caldwell, Happy Valley: Batted 5 of 6 with a double, a grand slam, six RBI's and three runs for the Happy Valley Warriors against Hampton on Tuesday.
   Amanda Pike and Liz Dove, Elizabethton: The Lady Cyclones defeated Amber Campbell and Lacy Hunigan 8-5 in a doubles match at Unicoi County.
   BASEBALL: Sullivan North at Elizabethton (Tuesday), Hampton at Elizabethton (Monday), Happy Valley and Unaka in the Blue Devil Invitational (Tuesday-Friday in Unicoi County), Cloudland at Johnson County (Wednesday Doubleheader)
   SOFTBALL: Mitchell Co, NC at Cloudland (Monday), Elizabethton at Unaka (Wednesday), Hampton at Johnson County (Thursday), Happy Valley in Eastman Tournament (Friday-Sunday)
   TENNIS: Unicoi County at Elizabethton (Monday), Elizabethton at Johnson County (Thursday)
   TRACK AND FIELD: Conference Meet at Elizabethton (Tuesday)
   SOCCER: Elizabethton at Sullivan Central (Thursday)