A short time ago, I had the pleasure of attending the annual dinner given by the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference in Wheeling. This event keeps the members of the media up to date with schools in the conference and rule changes for the upcoming season.
The OVAC is the largest high school athletic conference in the country. It oversees rules and guidelines for 52 schools that are part of the conference. This is no easy matter when you consider the smallest school has an enrollment of 19 students, East Richland Christian and the largest school, Morgantown has 1484. Working to keep things fair and even when over a thousand students separate the top and bottom makes it a challenge.
When your mission is to keep rules up to date, help with scheduling within the conference and making sure there are enough experienced officials for games it can be a demanding task.
That along with making the games safer for the many athletes who compete throughout the school year. Tom Rataiczak for the last 19 years has worked along with the OVAC’s Executive Board to a make the conference a continuous work in progress to stay up to date.
In two years, the OVAC will celebrate its seventy anniversary. In the past 68 years, thousands of student athletes have taken to the playing fields under their guidance.
When you oversee a conference of this size, you realize it becomes a full time business and requires a dedicated group of individuals. Their dedication and long hours making sure athletic events come off smoothly.
This all is done with little fan fare or appreciation of their efforts.
At this year’s meeting, the members of the media were asked to help with getting information out to the schools and coaches. The hope is to improve the reporting of games scores after each contest. Coaches are asked to take a moment to text in the games scores to the OVAC.
They also explained there is an ongoing effort to keep experienced game officials on the field for games.
The conference is also working to recruit and train new officials. Incoming officials must have an understanding of rules and field experience.
They also actively work to keep the history of the valleys conference information for future generations. Much of this is kept on display in the halls of WesBanco Arena. If you ever have the opportunity to walk around the main floor of the center you will be able to travel thought sports history of the valley. This wealth of information and guidance for the high school sports association is important to maintain our history.
Here in our community we are lucky that a little know historian has kept records of Magnolia sports history, much as the OVAC has. Warren Witschey has dedicated a great deal of time and effort in keeping records of games, wins and loses and players dating back as far as, well I guess to the beginning.
On occasion, we talk and he never ceases to amazes me with his knowledge of the school’s sports history.
A couple of weeks ago he contacted me and said he had information about the 1915 football team and the 1965 team. When we got together he opened the file folders and showed me the history of those two teams. I decided it was worth passing a little of that on to you. Warren showed me black and white team pictures of players and coaches frozen in time going back a hundred years.
The faces of the 1915 team are preserved in an excellent quality picture. Young men who faces are frozen in time in an image taken long ago. I am sure they are all now pasted into history. As to the young men in the 1965 picture, many are still very much part of the community and telling stories of that seasons games.
1965 was the first year I wore a football uniform and played the game on the field. It’s hard to believe 50 years since I came out for football. In both 1915 and 1965 most players showed up to practice with little or no conditioning before taking to the field.
The first week of practice was a challenge to get into condition quickly in the August heat. Today high school athletes work out and condition year round and show up ready to play.
This gives the coaching staff more time to concentrate on the training to play the game with conditioned players.
When you look at the athletes in the pictures you can see the faces don’t look that much different over the years. Look closely and you can almost see dreams of the future in their eyes.
Those young men in 1915 and 1965 are now part of Magnolia’s sports history.
The young men in this season’s team picture are about to set out and make their own history.
Coach Simms is entering his second season as head coach. His players and staff have a season under their belts working together.
I am betting they are hoping to make the 2015 season one for the record books in the OVAC.
And we can be sure Warren will make sure they will take their place among the pages of Magnolia’s great football teams in history. Who knows, in a hundred years a sports writer may once again tell the history of Magnolia and the OVAC as they look back Through the Lens.