Vernon’s interim head coach helping program deal with grief and moving forward

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 10:07 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -The folks at Vernon High School are dealing with tragedy and loss, and one coach in particular has been tasked with helping the program move on.

The Yellow Jackets are mourning the loss of head football coach and A.D. Trey Pike, who was killed in a late night boating accident Saturday in North bay near the Bailey Bridge. The coach’s death rippling through the Vernon community in a very big way, even though the coach had only been at Vernon High School a couple of years, and had just ascended to the head coaching gig. That after his close friend Gerald Tranquille moved back east to his alma mater at Liberty in the offseason. Washington County School Superintendent Joseph Taylor deciding Sunday to name Vernon assistant Chad Weeks the interim coach for this season. Weeks was with Vernon last season, after a stint as an assistant at Mosley. So he now shares the tough task of getting the Vernon players to deal with all of this while eventually moving on with the business of football. That process began with a meeting with the players Sunday.

“Just trying to make sure that they knew they were loved and supported, and that people were there for them.” coach Weeks told me via Zoom Monday afternoon. “The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since early yesterday. Today kind of woke up and started the process to make sure things are taken care of going into the season. And not just for football but for all the sports. Because you know at the end of the day we play a game on the 19th. Volleyball gets started here soon. And we’ve got make sure things get taken care of.”

Monday was the scheduled team picture day, after which coach Weeks gave the players the option of going home, or working out. They chose the latter, a high intensity cardio workout, which Weeks says is appropriate if you knew coach Pike.

“These situations they are tragic, and everybody processes these things differently.” coach Weeks explained. “Kids process things differently at different speeds than adults do. And so we’re going to take today and take care of just a few housekeeping things that we have to take care of. And then we’re going to give them some time to process, to vent with their teammates, and kind of take care of themselves mentally. This is more than somebody just leaving to take another job or somebody leaving to do something else. This is a different type of process.”

The interim head coach adding he knows the players will continue to grieve long past Monday. And there’s no timetable to how long that process may take.

”But tomorrow (Tuesday) when we come back up here we have to get back to work. I know Trey Pike, if I know anything about him he’s up in heaven right now telling us you better get back to work today. But that’s just the way he is. And it’s my job and the other coaches jobs to get those kids back in a place where they can get started to get ready to take care of what they have spent the last three months working extremely hard to get ready to do.”

And coach Weeks says he knows the football field can wind up being a sanctuary for all of them, and it’s important they share that sanctuary as a group!

“In my experience, nothing good happens in the dark. And nothing good happens when you’re alone. And that’s true for adults, that’s true for kids. As much as we think that they get that social media interaction, it’s different when you can be around people of a like mind, going through that same situation. And it’s important to have people around you that can support you and help you through that process. We have so real challenges coming up. August 19th is 11 days away.”

That’s when Vernon faces Freeport in a preseason classic. The following Friday they open the regular season at Liberty, against former Vernon head coach and coach Pike’s close friend, Gerald Tranquille.

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