A Barbour County teacher and coach is taking the problem of how to fund the county's middle school sports programs into his own hands - by taking to his feet.
Students, parents, coaches and concerned residents are facing a dilemma in Barbour County. Because of budget constraints faced by the county Board of Education, Dr. Joseph Super, county superintendent of schools, made the recommendation to cut the middle school coaches and assistant coaches positions for football, boys and girls basketball, cheerleading, cross county and volleyball.
Before this recommendation even hit the BOE meeting agenda, Barbour County residents chose to be proactive to help prevent the cuts, or at least to make sure if cuts were made, that they could raise enough money to support the sports. The group, Barbour All County Sports, was formed to help assure the continuation of middle school sports.
A teacher and coach at Philippi Middle School has taken an even larger step - he has pledged to raise more than $50,000 by July 1 to help fund the middle school sports programs.
"I have committed to raise funding for the middle school athletic programs in Barbour County by training for and completing a 172-mile walk from Philippi to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio," Nick Mayle said.
"Through my efforts, I also hope to raise awareness about the challenges that rural communities and their athletic programs face," he said. "As an educator and a coach, it is my job to embolden these children to pursue their dreams and encourage them every step of the way."
and Marcus Johnson
to Canton, Ohio
About 175 miles
3 hours, 28 minutes
Mayle and Johnson's
Estimated Walking Time
$50,000 by July 1
Mayle said he decided to take this first step in January.
"I found myself facing a crisis that thousands of my peers across the county have been forced to confront. Our county was unable to pass a tax levy, and the board of education was given the difficult task of deciding where to start making budget cuts," Mayle said. "To my dismay, all middle school programs could be eliminated under current cost-cutting proposals."
Mayle said he hopes the walk does more than raise money - he hopes it inspires students to follow their dreams.
"Just because this area has not yet produced a hall-of-fame-level athlete does not mean that it never will," he said. "I am hopeful that the journey I am about to take does more than just raise funds - I want to create a culture of belief among our youth that through hard work and dedication, all of their dreams are possible and can be made a reality, one step at a time."
Mayle has created a Facebook site, "One step at a time," that will offer information about the journey, and a PayPal account which will allow businesses, community groups, churches, corporations and individuals to make donations.
"My goal is to leave on Monday of our spring break and arrive in Canton by Saturday afternoon," Mayle said. "I am working to get a camper so we will have somewhere to sleep if other accommodations are not available each night when we stop.
"Because of the proposed elimination of our middle school sports programs, other schools have dropped us from their schedules. Sports is a vehicle to influence the lives of these kids, and if you take these opportunities away from them, you are short-changing everyone in the end."
Mayle said the community needs to build support and awareness.
"We need to stand behind these kids. We must be proactive and find a solution. We ask that you follow your heart and help us by contributing to our cause."
Philip Barbour High School football coach Marcus Johnson is planning to make the walking trip with Mayle.
"The elimination of middle school sports not only affects the middle school, but the high school sports as well," Johnson said. "The students may not want to be professional athletes, but they are all student athletes. And elimination of middle school sports will have a huge impact on high school sports as well."
"We want to help, and we are doing this for the kids," Johnson said. "It won't be an easy task - it's not like walking around the block but like an obstacle. We are fighting the obstacle and it is what needs to be done."