End of an era

Published 11:19 pm Friday, March 12, 2010

After 30 years of teaching and nearly that long coaching sports at John Yeates, Nansemond River and King’s Fork schools in Suffolk, J.B. Varney will be retiring from teaching and coaching King’s Fork’s varsity baseball program at the end of this school year.

Along with coaching many recreation league baseball and basketball teams around Suffolk in the last three decades, Varney coached football and soccer at John Yeates, football and baseball at Nansemond River and baseball for the first six years of the program’s existence at King’s Fork. All told, it’s 23 years of coaching in Suffolk.

Varney fondly remembers coaching the soccer squad at John Yeates to a district championship.

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“I had my best record in something I knew nothing about,” Varney said.

Last season, the Bulldogs won a program-high five games. Of all the new Bulldog teams since the school opened in 2004-05, baseball’s had one of the toughest roads to travel.

Just as much as being a coach, Varney’s taken up the role of general manager, foreman and fundraiser to make KF’s baseball facility on par with the rest of the competitive Southeastern District.

“The first thing we looked at was having a nice facility to attract better ball players,” Varney said.

“We’ve basically rebuilt the field and brought in the basic stuff any team needs to operate,” Varney said.

A scoreboard, a press box and concession stand, an irrigation system, a better field with a warning track, multiple batting cages, storage and more are some of the improvements Varney’s headed up on KF’s field.

“I thought it would take four or five years to be competitive. Now we’re in our sixth year and we have more competitive players and a competitive team,” Varney said.

Varney teaches marketing at KF and he’ll be retiring from full-time teaching as well.

“In my mind, it’s sort of scary sitting down and thinking about retiring when you’ve been burning the candle at both ends like I’ve done,” Varney said. “I can’t imagine sitting around, twiddling my thumbs and planting a tomato garden.”

“I’m retiring from the school system, but I’ll be involved in something,”

“I was in politics at one time, maybe I’ll get back into that,” Varney said. Varney served on Botetourt County’s Board of Supervisors before coming to Suffolk.

“I won by seven votes. I think my wife voted for me and I voted, so it was really down to five votes,” Varney said.

He might not stay completely away from coaching for long, but he’ll only come back and be a part of a high school team if he’s asked and it the time’s right. Varney says it’s more difficult being a coach, of any sport, now than in the past.

“Any sport has a hard time competing with all the activities around today. Kids aren’t into it as much as in the past when all we had to do was to play ball,” Varney said.

“Plus, the price of playing baseball goes up every year,” Varney said.

Part of the reason for announcing his decision now, with this upcoming season getting set to start, is so the school will have a lot of time to find a good replacement. Varney and King’s Fork had problems finding a JV baseball coach this season; so he doesn’t want the same issue to repeat itself.

The Bulldog baseball season has its opening day on Tuesday at Nansemond River at 5:30 p.m.