Goodbye Coach Ollis, but not really
Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Polk County High School football coach Bruce Ollis announced his retirement recently, and that decision makes me both happy and sad. Happy for him and his family, but sad for the Polk County Schools family.
I first met Coach Ollis when I was the principal of PCHS and we were in the process of hiring a new head football coach. I believed then, as I always have, that he was a person who would make a positive impact on the student-athletes in our community. It was a fortunate congruence of events on both sides that brought him to Polk County. Our community has been made a better place because of the decisions made by Coach Ollis and Polk County Schools at the time.
A little context is needed here concerning football in the small town/communities of the South. A social gathering like no other occurs on Friday nights in the fall in Polk County. People from a variety of backgrounds converge in support of the one cause for which they can all agree and unite: CHILDREN. The various Polk County Schools organizations that make Friday nights so special are all present – the band, the cheerleaders, the booster clubs, the Blue Crew and, of course, the football team. All of these organizations have put in time and effort to perfect their role in the special event of Friday night football. All of the Polk County citizens present (parents, retirees, school personnel, elected officials, businesses and sponsors) all exude pride in the students they are there to support. Viewed from this perspective, Friday nights in Polk County are truly something to behold.
The focus on sports teams has always been on wins and losses, and that is somewhat understandable. But in high school and youth sports in general, a real football program needs to be about much more. The first weekend I showed Coach Ollis around our fieldhouse and facilities, his impact began, but at the time very few people realized it. Behind the scenes, you began to see the code of honor, the discipline, the hard work, the respect and the insistence on doing things the right way that would make his teams so successful. The success I speak of is not wins and losses, even though the traits he instilled in the players resulted in many victories. The success I speak of is student-athletes who have learned that success in any endeavor takes hard work, takes being on time and supporting other members of your team, takes the discipline to perform your role to the best of your ability, takes having respect for yourself and others and takes doing all things the right way. This can all be summed up by saying it takes becoming a good citizen valued by others in the community. These traits and expectations became a kind of glue that bound players over 20 years together, thus becoming part of the expectations we all observed and expected on Friday nights at Polk County High School.
The community glue he helped establish here is not temporary glue, like a Post-it note. It has stuck to 20 years of student-athletes permanently, and they will continue to pass it through their children. So I and the community say goodbye Coach Ollis, but not really goodbye to your influence in Polk County. May God Bless you for It.
Bill Miller, Former Principal of Polk County High School