MATHEWS COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) – There was extra attendance at a Mathews County School Board meeting Tuesday night, all in support of a former volunteer coach told to take his talents elsewhere.
Students and parents packed into the Mathews High School library to send a message to the school board: “I’m here tonight to speak in support of Jami Thompson,” one parent said.
“I’ve seen him coach youth, I’ve seen him coach my boys, and I can’t think of anybody else I would want alongside the mat,” added parent Debbie Moore.
Thompson was told he couldn’t work with the team he has sent nine years coaching. He believes it’s a move in retaliation after he stood up for 9th grade students who were told they couldn’t tryout for the varsity cheerleading team. Because of his actions, new cheerleading tryouts were held to give everyone a fair shot.
Speakers at Tuesday night’s meeting said holding a grudge is wrong.
“This cheerleading incident makes me wonder: are coaches allowed to make policy? If someone complains about a policy, are they subject to retaliation? This should not be case,” said one attendee.
“This would have been my 10th year,” Thompson told the school board. “I’ve taken these kids to tournaments. I’ve taken them to Gloucester for extra wrestling in the off-season. I’ve volunteered and ran the clock for every tournament up to last year.”
Thompson said for him, it’s not about money. It is all about the wrestlers.
“These are my men,” he said. “I’ve coached them since they were small. I love them. I would do anything for them.”
The board listened, but didn’t say anything. Student liaison to the board, Bryan Smith, thinks Thompson should be reinstated.
“I think you have a great man for the job,” Smith told the board. “You see all these kids love him. It is not just kids, but the adults. He has great energy, a great attitude and he has the confidence.”
Many in the crowd at the meeting were wrestlers, who want back their long-time coach.
“He’s been completely donated to the sport his whole life,” said Mathews senior wrestler Sam Moore. “He knows everything about it, and he is just really into it.”
Some of the athletes said they might not compete, if Coach Thompson isn’t there, come practice in a couple weeks.
“We said we might not wrestle because of it,” said Mathews senior wrestler Isaiah Maultsey. “We haven’t truly decided yet, because we really want to wrestle, but we want to support him also.”
The one thing students and parents did was give the school board something to think about. A decision didn’t come Tuesday night, but could come soon. Count on 10 On Your Side to keep you updated with the latest developments.