Richard Bland Set For Action
By Ryan Lazo
Sep 18, 2013, 08:11
PETERSBURG — Ever wonder what goes into the making of an athletic program? Everyone marvels at the ones already firmly in place like those at Virginia Commonwealth University, but to create a sports program from nothing is a task like none other.
However, that’s exactly what has occurred at Richard Bland College, a public junior college university with an approximate enrollment of 1,400 students. With the addition of on-campus dormitories, there became a need to create on-campus activity and bring about school spirit.
And there’s no better way to create school spirit by developing an athletic program which has deftly been overseen by athletic director and head basketball Chuck Moore. The positives of adding a sports program to the National Junior College Athletic Association made all the work worth it for Moore.
“It was partly due to increase the student enrollment, but also to have a more vibrant campus with more activities for the students to not just participate in, but also be a part of,” Moore explained. “There’s nothing like going to a college basketball, softball or soccer game to build a sense of school pride.”
Take a walk around the campus and visit the dormitories and it’s easy to see the excitement students have about finally having their own team to root for during the season. They can look forward to having a place to be on those weekend nights to gather together as a community while cheering on their fellow classmates.
However, like most teams just starting out, Moore knows the challenge his program is facing.
His teams face the unenviable task of not only establishing a sports culture on a college which has no sports history, but also attract students to attend their games with wins.
“People like winners,” Moore said bluntly. “When teams win, people come to watch. There is no doubt about that. We hope to put a quality product out there and we win some games.”
And the process to field quality teams began with a wide-spread coaching search to find the right type of coaches to help jump-start the program. Moore said he aimed to find passionate people who had a tremendous vision of what they could do at Richard Bland.
He wanted these prospective coaches to see the lasting impact they can have, especially knowing that they are the first — the pioneers of a program trying to skip crawling and walking and go all the way to running.
Moore found this in former University of Virginia soccer player Matt Weiler.
At just 25 years old and just a few years removed from his playing days with the Cavaliers, Weiler brought the type of innovative approach and thinking Moore longed for.
“It was a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of a new program,” Weiler said. “It’s unique to get a group of people together and come up with your own take on what an athletic program should have.”
But Weiler was not the only coach who brought a young-age perspective and a vision on building a program to its fullest potential. Assistant basketball coach Dominick Parker also displayed this kind of ability.
In fact, Parker said it was an easy decision to join Moore’s staff and try to
make a name for Richard Bland athletics.
“Part of what stood out to me was this isn’t a losing program,” Parker said. “This is something fresh. We can start a winning program and I think a lot of these kids came here because it can be the start of something great.”
Because one can’t field an athletic program without having players to wear the college’s uniform. It takes a certain type of player — much like a coach — to join a program with no history, but Weiler was able to find one in Marcus Carter.
Carter is a rarity among those within the ranks of the athletic program. He’s already played at a higher level, giving him knowledge of what it takes to succeed and provides motivation to get back to a four-year program.
“I believe in the coach,” Carter said. “He’s working his hardest to bring it up and it’s a first-year program, so there’s nothing you can really look off of. You just have to believe.”
And the program is already off to a solid start with a 2-2 record, although in those two losses, the Statesmen have been outscored by a 24-to-2 margin — no doubt an example of the growing pains which will plague the program in its first year.
But perhaps most importantly is the way Moore and his coaches develop relationships with their student-athletes in order to bring them some success.
Lequan Thomas mentioned Moore always following his high school games and giving advice on where to improves as part of the reasons he chose to attend Richard Bland.
“Coach Moore followed me for a long time. Before he was coaching me, he told me I can call him for anything,” Thomas said. “He told me if I came here, he’d help me get to the next level.”
And that’s the goal for every student-athlete in the Richard Bland program.
“We want that 100 percent graduation rate and 100 percent placement into a four-year program,” Moore explained. “If we do that, far greater than wins and losses, that’s a success.”
For a program starting from a vision, Richard Bland has already conquered the hard part. Now, it’s all about playing games. Easy enough considering the enormous obstacles they faced to get to this point.