Church pews that sat on a flat surface in the Walker Valley Mustangs' meeting room have been replaced with cushioned chairs on carpeted risers in front of a freshly painted back wall. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)
Just the same as a house does not make a home, a building does not make a facility.
That was the first impression of Drew Akins when he walked though the Mustangs’ field house for the first time after accepting the head football coaching job at Walker Valley High School. The tour revealed numerous “eyesores” that led Akins to formulate a renovation of the facility that is still in progress , but has produced some impressive results so far.
“We came up here and walked through this facility. There were just some things, eyesores, immediately that stuck out," Akins said. "You walk into the locker room and you saw carpet. As a coach that's the first thing that sticks out and I thought, 'That's got to go.' It's more a safety issue than anything."
The revamping of the Mustangs’ field house is most prominent in the “War Room” where church pews on a flat surface have been replaced with cushioned seats on risers, giving a complete view of the room from any seat from floor level up. A custom-built conference table now sits where a standard fold-up once was and a large screen television, used to study video, hangs prominently in the center of the room.
Fresh paint, new carpet and enlarged photos of Mustangs in action put the finishing touches on the pride of the field house.
"It was carpeted, there were church pews, it was flat. It wasn't inviting, just dull, dark colors. It almost looked like it had become a storage room," Akins recalled. "There were boxes along the walls. when you walked in there your eyes got drawn to those things instead of how great that room could be.
“I started looking at it and my mind immediately started thinking, 'This is a great meeting room if we can give it some tender, loving care,'" he said. "We started the the idea of getting risers in the room, then we wanted to get some carpet on the risers. It kind of snowballed into what it's become, a really elite meeting room."
Reworking and realigning has also been done in the locker room and the weight room, which Akins feels is adequate for now, continues to be a work in progress.
"It's such a nice building, but it wasn't a great facility. We wanted to make sure we gave our kids confidence. Part of that confidence comes from pride in what you have. Pride in your uniforms and helmets and your facility. We have done a lot of renovation in our locker room,” Akins noted. “The pride of this facility right now is our 'War Room,' where we go to talk about our battles. We've done so much in that room — when I first got here that was my vision. Take a snapshot of what I envisioned for that room and we hit every single mark. I think it's an elite facility when it comes to meeting rooms. It's probably the best I've ever been a part of, for sure."
Much of the labor and material was either donated by or purchased at a discount through local businesses.
"They did a great job of asking us what we needed and helping us get what we needed done," Akins said. "We had a lot of people from a lot of different parts of life who really chose to come out, help us out, give us discounts and make it possible for us to get it done. There are several companies that really put their necks out.”
But, a sparkling new "War Room," new paint, and furniture will undoubtedly not add a single point on the scoreboard for the Mustangs who have won just a single game win their last 20 outings. But, Akins is hoping the refurbished facilities will help instill a sense of pride and ownership that will eventually lead to confidence and success on the football field.
"It's all about pride. It's all about something to be prideful in. It's like when you invite people to your house, you clean up and make it as nice as possible. That's what we're trying to do for our kids," Akins said. "We're trying to give them a facility that’s first class, something they can be proud of. Something that when other programs walk in here if there's a rain delay and they have to be in here, they will be jealous of what we have because it's something that a lot of programs at this level don't have. It's something our kids can be proud of. It's something I know our coaching staff is very proud of, something that our booster club is very proud of.
"It's a mindset," Akins added. "Again, something that creates pride. When you have pride in what you have it creates pride in what you do. Obviously, the wins and losses is what you do.
"If you have pride in what you have you have pride in what you do and it's going to make you work harder at what you do," he said. "It’s going to make you appreciate what you have. It all ties together."
Akins added the "War Room" has "not won us one ballgame. We are still 0-0. It hasn't won us a game, but it's given us a sense of belonging and pride."
"That's why all these (college) programs have these nice facilities," Akins said. "They want people to come there. It creates excitement to be there and it creates pride in what they have. That's what we're trying to create. It's starting that mindset that we have things here we can be proud of. We have reasons to come here to be a part of this program."
Photos of Mustangs in action line both sides of the newly refurbished "War Room" inside the Walker Valley football field house. (Banner Photo: Richard Roberts)