Note: This sports column appears in the Wednesday, July 10 newspaper on Page B1.

McARTHUR — Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning once said, “Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what ... you’re doing.”

There can be a lot of pressure taking over as head football coach, especially for a team you once starred with. However, new Vinton County head coach Travis Bethel sees things a little bit different.

“Because there hasn’t been consistent success in terms of getting to the playoffs, I don’t think there’s much pressure. But I’m sure that will change once the season officially starts,” Bethel said. “It’s been 15 years since Vinton County has made the playoffs, but we have a great group of seniors who have been great leaders this summer. As long as they keep working hard and us coaches continue to push them, we believe we can have a great season.”

Bethel was hired back in March as the 20th head football coach in Vinton County’s school history. After a standout Viking career, he played college football at Union College in Kentucky, where he later began his coaching career as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator from 2006-2009.

Following that three-year stint, he returned to the area and was hired as a defensive coach at Wellston from 2010-2014 before taking some time off.

However, the itch to coach again became too big to not scratch and the minute he saw the opening at his alma mater, he jumped at the chance.

“I talked things over with my wife and it was the right fit,” Bethel said. “Staying in the area was important for us and no better place to get back into coaching than where I went to school. I love being around kids, coaching them and being able to teach them lifelong lessons that they can carry with them after football is over.”

While he quickly found out that being in charge goes far beyond the football field, he’s adjusted properly and has the Vikings working hard this summer.

“Coaching is the easy part, but it’s the things like fundraising, talking with alumni and getting other things scheduled that hit me hard,” Bethel said. “It definitely made me more organized and challenged me to deal with a lot of things you didn’t realize as an assistant coach, but I’ve gotten a lot better with it.

“We had a tough weight room schedule for them all spring and now we’re going through conditioning, so we’re building up that mental toughness and getting them to keep going through the adversity,” Bethel continued. “I believe mental toughness is the first step to building a good program and we’re trying to build good, winning habits.”

Bethel undoubtedly has his work cut out for him with 10 seniors from last year’s team gone. This year’s team is learning a brand new system. With a fresh approach comes new reasons for optimism — it all comes to what Bethel calls “creating winning habits,” which extends well beyond the football field.

“Winning in the classroom, winning at home and in the community,” Bethel said. “These are things they have to do and on a consistent basis. There will be no quitting in these guys and once they get in the routine of winning off the field, winning on Friday nights becomes easier. We’re excited to get the season going and start a new chapter of Vinton County football.”

The Courier will publish season previews and coaching features for Jackson County’s schools in upcoming editions.

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