New Site Mayor Phil Blasingame fulfilled a promise to the late Bryan Yates on Tuesday afternoon by reopening the town’s old gym for area children.
Yates asked Blasingame about the gym a lot in the months leading up to Yates’ death last November and the gym was rededicated in memory of the former coach.
“Every time I would visit with him he would ask, ‘OK, Big Red, how about the gym?’” Blasingame said. “He wanted it so kids could practice in it.”
To complete Yates’ dream, Blasingame presented keys to the coaches of the boys and girls basketball teams at Horseshoe Bend School.
“This is for you to use,” Blasingame told the coaches. “Y’all can practice here and the town will keep it up.”
Horseshoe Bend boys basketball coach Chad Kison said Yates would visit him, most often before the season started, and ask about the team.
“He would ask about the boys and how’d I think they were going to do,” Kison said. “I would say something like, ‘We might be all right.’ He would just say, ‘Just work them hard. They will get better.’”
The idea of working hard to get better for Yates not just as players but as men and women was echoed through the night Tuesday with several who played for Yates speaking. The ex-players spoke of his demand for hard work and those memories surrounded the old gym built in the 1950s.
“This a place where coach Yates created men and women,” said Blasingame, who also played for Yates.
Someone else said, “If we had more teachers like coach Yates, America would not be in the shape it is today.”
The Tallapoosa County Commission presented Yates’ wife Virgina with a proclamation celebrating the event. The gym is where Yates acquired many of his 503 career wins, 15 20-win seasons, five area championships and was a launching point for Yates-coached teams to play in four state tournaments.
Mike Boyd played for and coached with Yates then followed Yates as head coach when Yates retired. Boyd said he was honored to be coached by Yates and follow him as a coach and said Yates’ advice about how to keep the job as coach struck him.
“He gave me some advice on keeping the job,” Boyd said. “He said, ‘You’ll lose your job quicker by not cleaning the gym than by losing.’”
Blasingame picked on Boyd for being meticulous in cleaning up the gym and keeping people off the floor which bears Yates’ name thanks to Boyd.
Many of the trophies won by players who practiced in the gym are again on display. The lights have been replaced with newer LED lighting thanks to a grant and a new fire alarm system with emergency lighting has been put in. Blasingame said it was all to make the gym suitable for practices once again.
Sam Bledsoe came from the training school after integration and played for Yates but not without first questioning Yates’ methods.
“In ninth grade, I practiced one day and quit,” Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe said he came back the next year and followed Yates’ advice to go on to play ball at Southern Union. He said he holds the Yates family close.
“Coach Yates’ family is my family,” Bledsoe said. “They made me feel part of their family. He was like a father to me.”
Bledsoe reminded many in the crowd of some of Yates’ sayings that can apply to anybody in any avenue of life.
“He would always say, ‘Try and find the end of the white line,’ and, ‘All I want is all you got,’” Bledsoe said.