Amid protests, William Fleming coaches express hope and calls for change

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — On a day when the William Fleming athletic community celebrated collegiate signings of three athletes, their coaches expressed hope and desires for change amid the protests that are intensifying across the country.

“I’ve always wanted to be one of the coaches that stand in the forefront of this,” football head coach Jamar Lovelace said. “It’s so in our face.”

As demands for justice continue in Roanoke and beyond, Lovelace wants sports to be part of the change that many are calling for on the streets.

“We got things going on downtown. Some of our kids are part of those things going on downtown,” Lovelace said. “It’s not anything that we can hide from. The message we always preach to our guys is we want to navigate through our feelings, we don’t want to tell them exactly how to feel. We want to make sure we spread messages of unity and love.”

Since taking over the Colonels’ program in 2018, Lovelace has provided his players with support both on- and off-the-field. He hopes to guide the Colonels through these challenging and emotional times.

“Man we’ve had a lot of conversations with our guys on the team. it’s something we’re purposeful about. We don’t want to act like these issues don’t exist,” Lovelace said. “But it’s been very positive conversations with our guys and our overall message is we want to be that living example for what we’re talking about so everyday we want to walk in this change that we’re preaching to our guys about.”

Girls’ basketball coach Richard Wilson is also hopeful that the athletes who’ve spent the last four years representing William Fleming can lead by example in the future.

“Everybody is having a chance to speak their voice and speak their truth and I just hope with these three individuals, they go off and get their education and things of that nature and they go and gain an awareness so they can comeback and contribute to their community to make Roanoke, Virginia a better place,” Wilson said.

While sports have been shutdown because of the pandemic, Wilson sees an opportunity for athletes to make the most of what’s happening.

“Gives us a chance to reboot, to reset our way of thinking and our way of living and just how we approach life and treat one another,” Wilson said. “So I just hope that everyone takes this opportunity to do some self reflection and figure out what they can do to make themselves better and also their community.”

While Wilson hopes a return to sports can mean a return to normalcy, Lovelace wants his players’ experience as an athlete to have deeper meaning.

“You know everything we talk about in sports is the same thing that we need in the real world right now,” Lovelace said.

“We need teamwork. We need guys to work together. We need guys to communicate. So all the things that we preach for these guys to do on the field are the same things we want them to do in the game of life.”

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