Trevor Simpson practices his lay up shot during the Kemmerer Rangers practice on Thursday, Nov. 15.
GAZETTE PHOTO/Rikki Rogers
KEMMERER — As the weather gets colder, things are warming up for the Rangers’ basketball team inside the gym.
This will be the second year for head coach Phillip Thatcher to lead the boys. Coach Thatcher is no stranger to Kemmerer. He went to school in Kemmerer from the age of 12 and participated in all sports while growing up.
After attending the University of Wyoming, Thatcher moved back to Kemmerer with his wife Shelby; they have six children together.
Now, you can’t just walk into a head coaching job for the Rangers. There are two different ways to land the job.
The first is to come out of college with classes like “prevention of injury” and also “theory of basketball,” or whatever sport you’re focused on. These classes teach you strategies for the sport.
The second way is to be an assistant in a sport for at least two years.
Thatcher has been teaching history for 10 years at the high school and middle school levels. During that time he has assisted or been head coach in football, boys and girls basketball and track and field in both middle school and high school.
“I bit off more than I could chew,” said Thatcher. “I was coaching four sports a year. I had to cut back, so I chose basketball.”
When asked why he coaches, Thatcher explained, “I’ve always wanted to work with kids and I’ve always liked sports.”
Thatcher’s philosophy on the game is that sports are there to teach children.
“Sports provide opportunities for kids to not only improve physical talents and abilities, but to help them develop social communication to develop dealing with adversity and to set goals and achieve them.”
Sports aren’t just physical; if they were, a lot more people would do it.
“There is so much more pressure — especially when you get up into the varsity level,” Thatcher said. “It takes cooperation and self-sacrifice if your team is going to succeed.”
Thatcher puts a lot of emphasis on education and holds it above the sport, especially at the varsity level.
“It is more important to get a diploma than a state title. Don’t get me wrong, I like state titles, I’ve been part of a couple and it is a great accomplishment,” said Thatcher. “But it doesn’t mean anything if the kid doesn’t get through high school.”
He holds the kids accountable to more than just eligibility requirements. If anyone has a “D” or “F” there is more conditioning during practice as discipline. Those that struggle in school are taken into account.
Thatcher also admires those that put forth extra effort — that doesn’t get overlooked.
“If the kids are working hard we can deal with whatever the end result of the game is,” Thatcher replied. “If the kids will give me everything they’ve got, I will do the same.”
Only two kids with any varsity experience are returning to the team this season; there are eight freshmen and the rest played JV. The freshmen are going to very busy with 14 games in the season, for which assistant coach Matt Stewart will be traveling and coaching. Most will be sitting and playing in the JV games; some will be sitting on the varsity bench.
Thatcher predicts that the team has a good chance to go into state play within the top three even though the team lost a great group of seniors last year.
“These kids have come in and absolutely given me a new motivation to do big things,” he said. “With Wyoming Indian and Lovell being the two teams that returned the most talent this year and also finishing one and two last year, they are looking like the team to beat.”
“We are going to have some learning moments, especially early in the season when we are playing a lot of 3A and 4A teams,” he continued. “I think it will take about three weeks to figure things out and find our identity. My goal would be to split with the Wyoming Indians. We have the kids that can run with them,” said Thatcher. “I think we are going to be good and we have a chance if we play hard and keep people healthy.”