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COLUMN: Barmore brought first taste of success to Spencer County basketball

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By John Shindlebower

Jacob Barmore was 22 years old when he returned to Spencer County as the youngest head coach in Kentucky high school basketball back in 2004. It was a rough first season for the rookie coach – not only because his team only won seven games, but he also suffered serious injuries in a car accident that caused him to miss several games and left him in pain on the sidelines much of the year.
However, he persevered and piloted the Bears for nine complete seasons, a tenure that ended just a few weeks ago when the administration informed him they wanted to take the program in a new direction. Like most athletic coaches, Barmore has a competitive heart and wasn’t happy with the decision or how it was handled, but he’s also appreciative enough of the opportunity he was given to be able to look back with perspective on the past nine seasons.
Most seasons, Barmore was able to put a pretty competitive team on the court, even if that didn’t translate to impressive win-loss records every year. For his career, Barmore was 117-135 in his nine seasons, but there are a few highlights in that span that seemed to whet the appetite of Spencer County basketball fans.
After a couple of years of flirting with that big win that could have put them into the regional tournament, all the pieces came together in the 2010-11 season when the Bears, arguably, had the best season in school history. They finished 25-7, winning the 30th District Tournament on their home floor and then advancing all the way to the 8th Region championship game, where they fell to Oldham County.
That was a magical season for the basketball program that seemed to unite an entire county. You couldn’t have fit another fan into the Spencer County gym with a shoe horn the night they won the district tournament. Then it seemed like half the county made that short drive to New Castle for each night of the regional tournament as a sea of blue filled the stands in Henry County’s gym.
Those are the memories that Barmore said he will cherish from his time at Spencer County, as well as the relationships he was able to forge with many of the players. At 31, Barmore is a relatively young man who will surely find his way back into coaching if he so desires, which, after talking to him last week, seems certain. He is a much better coach today than he was at 22, with more experience. He knows the pain of losing and the joy of winning.
This probably seemed like a dream situation for Barmore, being able to return to his home at such an early age to begin his career. But a new opportunity in a new location might be what he needs most to take his own coaching to a new level. Barmore has always been very cooperative to work with from a media perspective,  and I wish him nothing but success in his efforts to continue to live out his dream. If Spencer County’s basketball program reaches new heights in the near future, Barmore can at least take pride in knowing he gave fans the first taste of that during his tenure.

NEXT COACH?
I talked briefly with administrators in the days after Barmore’s dismissal and was told that a search is under way for his successor, but no decisions have been made yet.
Both Barmore and others suggested that one expectation of the next coach will be a more hands-on involvement in the middle school program and youth basketball. For his part, Barmore said that expectation was never expressed to him in prior years or he would have welcomed the chance to get involved. Regardless, it seems the new coach will be expected to foster a new level of commitment in the younger ages to help build the program at the high school.
I think that is imperative for small communities like Spencer County. The high school basically has only one feeder system, and that’s the middle school. The head coaches of all sports at the high school should communicate with their counterparts at the middle school and build a relationship. The job of the middle school coach is not necessarily to win games – but rather to teach the game and develop players. Preferably, they will teach the game the way it will be played at the next level, which will require the high school coach working with the middle school coach. For example, the football program at the high school may run particular offensive and defensive schemes. The middle school coaches should be running the same or similar schemes with their programs.
Few people are going to remember three years from now what the record for the seventh-grade team was, but the greater impact will be having sophomores who are knowledgeable about the sport they play and can contribute to the success of the high school team because they were properly groomed and taught in middle school. I hope the administration will work to ensure that middle school and high school coaches work closely together and that teaching the game at the younger ages takes a priority over wins and losses, so that by the time these players get to high school, they are better prepared to contribute.

FINAL FOUR
The University of Louisville men’s basketball team has earned its second straight trip to the Final Four, after thrashing Duke. It was admirable to see the team rally together after the nauseating injury to Kevin Ware in the first half. Hopefully, people across the commonwealth can put aside in-state rivalries long enough to root for the championship to stay in the Bluegrass for another year. Go Cards!
Both UK and U of L women’s teams are still alive in the NCAA tournament as of this writing. UK knocked off Delaware on Saturday to advance, and Louisville scored one of the tournament’s all-time upsets by knocking off No. 1 Baylor. Good luck to both as play resumes early this week.

PLAY BALL
Monday was Opening Day in Cincinnati. The home of baseball’s first professional team treats the opening of baseball season like a holiday, and rightly so.
After a long, cold winter that seemed like it would never end, how great it will be to see the green grass and hear the sound of that ball against the wooden bat.
Locally, the little league fields will soon be abuzz with activity and the softball and baseball teams at the high school offer up some excitement for people looking for an excuse to spend a warm afternoon in the sun as well.