Tazewell, Va. – Several Tazewell High School students practiced what they are learning in the classroom during the Nov. 8 school board meeting.
After learning veteran softball coach Tom Keene would not be re-appointed members of the softball team as well as members of the cross country and indoor track teams came to the meeting and spoke out about the issue. They were joined by adults, who also spoke against removing Keene as coach.
Keene has coached at either Tazewell or Richlands for more than 30 years with stints as assistant football coach, indoor and outdoor track coach as well as cross country and softball coach. Sage Lambert, a member of the softball team told the board and the packed auditorium that Keene had served as her father figure.
Macie Alford, a junior and member of the softball and indoor track teams said Keen was “the embodiment of what it means to be a Bulldog.’ Janie Ruble, mother of a former player thanked Jackson Duty, ((a student and athlete), for making the public aware of the matter and for establishing the petition to keep Keene.
Ruble said there should be a lot more job postings if won and loss records are used as the criteria for hiring coaches. She said Keen could have canceled the season last year because the team lacked players at several key positions and did not have a junior varsity program.
Ruble said he had enough players to field a team so they went on with the season. Mallorie Whitaker, a third year member of the team said “He is Tazewell softball.’
“I have never seen a man give more time and effort,’ she said. An impassioned Kelsey Harris said Keene believed in her when no one else did. Linda Akers, who was a long- time employee of the school system, said she often wondered if Keene’s wife recognized him when he got home because he spent so much time at the school.
Cross Country runners Sage Dagout, Abigail Rhudy, Ian Rhudy and Jackson Duty spoke on Keene’s behalf as well. Duty, a senior, presented the board a petition with over 1,200 signatures from students and members of the community.
Duty said Keene motivated him in cross country and indoor track as well as life. Nick Taylor said Keene didn’t teach running he taught you how to be a better person.
The board did not announce a decision during the meeting. They routinely discuss personnel matters in closed session and vote on them in open session afterward.
Keene's name was on the personnel list as softball coach when the list was releassed Nov. 9.