‘Blue pride’ lures former athletes back to Buena Vista

By Katie Shelor

“It’s home. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

That’s how girls’ basketball coach Adam Gilbert feels about Buena Vista and about Parry McCluer High School. That feeling is what made him come back to coach there as soon as he finished college in 2010.

Of the 26 coaches at Parry McCluer, 16 of them are alumni, including the varsity boys’ and girls’ basketball coaches, the varsity baseball coach, the wrestling coach and the girls’ tennis coach. Some have full-time jobs elsewhere and spend their afternoons and evenings coaching and mentoring the students.

During the day, Gilbert teaches at Mountain View Elementary School, and baseball coach Jason Coleman works at Everbrite, a commercial sign company in Buena Vista.

Nelson Fox, the boys’ basketball coach, graduated from Parry McCluer in 1971 and has been coaching and teaching there since 1976.

He says he came back because he felt a sense of loyalty to the community.

“I wanted to give back something that I had received when I was a young kid,” he said. “To work with the young people in the community was big to me, especially in Buena Vista.”

When he was a student, Gilbert was the starting point guard on Fox’s basketball team, setting the school scoring record at 1,406 points. He says he learned many life lessons, not just sports skills, that he wants to pass on to the girls he coaches now.

“I look up to Coach Fox,” Gilbert said. “I look at him as a father figure. He taught me everything I know about the game of basketball. It just seemed right to come back home and help the kids out that needed to be helped where I grew up.”

Coleman was also a student of Fox’s when he was at Parry McCluer from 1993 to 1997. Coleman began his career in 2003 as both a teacher and a coach. In 2008, he resigned from teaching to spend more time with his family, but he continued to coach the school’s baseball team.

“I still love the game of baseball and enjoy sharing it with the kids,” he said. “The drive to build a champion didn’t change when I left teaching.”

Coleman says he returned to Buena Vista because his and his wife’s families were there. He says he returned to Parry McCluer because of its exceptional coaches and teachers and to be part of a small community where people seem to work toward the same goal of helping the kids develop.

“It was funny, though,” he said, “during my first couple years on the job, to be working with my former teachers and coaches, and then having to call them by their first names.”

Fox, Gilbert and Coleman agree that all Parry McCluer graduates have a special bond to the athletic program.

“A part of me will always bleed blue, and it’s been an awesome task teaching the next generation of kids what it truly means to be a ‘Fighting Blue,’” Coleman said.

Fox says all of the alumni coaches “know what it is to be a Fighting Blue. They know the community in general, and they know the passion they have for sports.”

Gilbert says he’s never lost his “Blue Pride.”

“It’s something that kind of sticks with you once you’ve been here and played here and put in the time and the effort, the sweat and the tears,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you want to come back and teach the kids the way you were taught — the Fighting Blue way.”