BENNETT

Clarksville schools superintendent Tina Bennett talks to basketball camp attendees Saturday. | STAFF PHOTO BY CRAIG PEARSON

Anyone not love a good underdog story?

Two of those stories are featured on today’s front page, but Clarksville on the whole is a bit of a dark horse athletically. The Generals are the second smallest school in enrollment in the Mid-Southern Conference, but the issues go deeper than that.

Clarksville Community Schools Superintendent Tina Bennett is working to put the pieces in place to see her school corporation make strides across the board, including athletically. In fact, athletics, Bennett said, are crucial to a well-rounded school system’s ability to retain students.

“We’re having success with boys basketball and baseball, but our focus is success across the board, obviously in academics and our extracurriculars. And I believe those two things go hand-in-hand. Also our co-curriculars, the arts, are something we’re looking to build,” Bennett said.

Athletic director Levi Carmichael enters his second year in that role at Clarksville. The task in front of him and other Clarksville administrators looks daunting, but Carmichael — who starred in basketball at Eastern Greene before a successful run as a boys basketball coach at several stops — is upbeat.

The Generals’ football coach, Justin Boser, reported an uptick in numbers, and Clarksville has 15 players out for volleyball. As Bennett mentioned, boys basketball flashed some talent and potential late in the 2018-19 season. Baseball has a Division-I bound player in Webster Walls, who committed to Bellarmine this summer.

Some of the negatives include just three or four boys out for cross country and zero girls and a total of only six in track in the spring and just three in boys golf. Softball had just enough for a varsity team in the spring.

“There’s signs of improvement. You’ve got to build a culture and make it important,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael shares Bennett’s vision. He cites a statistic that about 40 percent of Clarksville High School students are involved in any extracurricular activity, which is below the state average.

“Everything goes together. Your extracurricular activities are your front door. We want to be doing things the correct way. Running camps, biddy ball program, baseball clinics, just to get our entire population involved in sports,” Carmichael said. “Studies show that if we get our kids involved in sports, the less discipline problems you have in school, the higher grades they’re apt to have.”

Various studies also show that physically fit children show better concentration and academic performance, and physical activity has a positive effect on mental health.

Sports who have strong leaders in place are instrumental in helping kids enjoy high school and learn healthy habits. Successful communities have parents who embrace administrators’ and coaches’ efforts to impact youth programs.

“I’m a little old school. You just want people who are going to work. If it’s a Saturday in the fall, that’s what we need. Our population wants to get involved, they just don’t know how,” Carmichael said.

Bennett, who was principal at Clarksville from 2006 to 2009, is looking forward to continue to work.

“Getting the right people involved in our program, building relationships with our students and rebuilding our program at the foundation, that was a huge gap in our athletic programming ... the feeder systems. Levi Carmichael has done a great job of getting that reset. He’s getting us focused on building our programs from the ground up.”

Best of luck to the current group of Generals’ athletes in getting that positive momentum rolling.

Craig Pearson is the sports editor of the News and Tribune. He can be reached via email at craig.pearson@newsandtribune.com or via Twitter @CraigPearsonNT.