Lollis Retires After 36 Years

Lollis Retires After 36 Years

RETIRING RC athletic director Rick Lollis shakes hands with McKenzie Burch, standing on the volleyball court with (from left) her mother, Penny, her sister Hannah and her father, Mike, on senior night in the fall of 2017. Lollis presented Hannah and other seniors flowers to honor them. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

Lollis Retires After 36 Years

GALE

Gale Named New RCHS Athletic Director

The Rockbridge County School Board approved Mike Gale as the new athletic director at Rockbridge County High School at its meeting on Tuesday of last week. Gale will replace Rick Lollis, who is retiring after 36 years in education.

Lollis, 60, has had three stints as the athletic director, including the past four years, and has coached several sports teams. He has also served as an assistant principal and a teacher for physical education, health and driver’s education.

Gale, 42, has been the boys basketball coach at Stuarts Draft High School in Augusta County for the past 14 years, and he’s coached golf at Draft for the past 12 years. He is the all-time winningest basketball coach at Stuarts Draft, with 182 career wins, 14 postseason appearances and eight regional appearances. This past winter, the team earned a state berth for the first time in school history, and Gale was named Shenandoah District coach of the year. Under Gale, the Cougars were district champions in 2012-13 and this past winter.

Before his head coaching years, Gale was a physical education teacher at Stewart Gordon Middle School in Fort Defiance and a junior varsity basketball coach at Fort Defiance High School, as well as the head assistant coach at Fort.

Gale was an athlete in high school and college, playing golf, basketball and baseball at Fort, from which he graduated in 1996. He playing baseball at Eastern Mennonite University, where he earned all-conference honors as a first baseman his junior and senior years before graduating in 2001 with a degree in health and physical education. He holds a master of science degree in sports management administration from Liberty University, graduating in 2015.

Gale said that the main thing coaching has taught him “is that I need to have the ability to keep all things in perspective. Yes, everyone wants to win and I am just as competitive as most. However, it is important to remember that sports are meant to be fun. Sometimes we lose that today in high school sports.”

He said he would like to think he has not coached his last game but “will have to see what the future holds regarding coaching.”

On becoming athletic director for the first time, Gale said, “I have known for a few years that this role was something I eventually would want to transition to. I have always had a passion for athletics and this gives me a chance to be in charge of an entire athletic department. Rockbridge has given me an opportunity to pursue this interest, and I am thankful for that. Mr. Lollis and [RC principal Mike] Craft have been great in helping me get prepared in this role as athletic director. They are trying to make the transition as smooth as possible.”

Lollis said he has gotten to know Gale over the past few years because he has coached the Stuarts Draft boys basketball team in the Rock the Ribbon Roundball GALE Classic, an American Cancer Society fundraiser at RC. “Everyone I talk to say that he’s a hard worker,” Lollis said.

Gale said that beginning this job during the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the cancellation of the spring season and could impact the fall season, “is going to be challenging to say the least. There is a lot of uncertainty, but you have to be prepared and have a plan as we move forward.”

Gale and his wife of 10 years, Davian, have two children: Maddie, 8, and Hudson, 6.

The new AD said he looks forward to “building solid relationships with the coaching staff and challenging them while supporting them as well. My goal is to assist the coaches in providing the student-athletes an opportunity to grow fundamentally, academically, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sportsmanship will also be a main emphasis within the athletic department.”

Lollis Concludes Career

Sportsmanship has always been a priority for Lollis, as RC athletic department assistant Travis Rogers noted. “Rick taught us that winning was important, but winning with respect and sportsmanship,” said Rogers. “Rick was very firm with that. We didn’t get many suspensions.”

Rogers, who has worked with Lollis for 10 years, said that Lollis “has been been a great mentor. He added stability, integrity and discipline to the position. He made some really tough decisions [during] his tenure there, but [he was] fair to the kids.”

In his three stints as athletic director, Lollis has had the position for a total of a decade. Each time, he’s helped the Wildcats adjust to switching to the Valley District, which they are currently a member of.

“Rick’s a people person, and he can create relationships really quickly, so switching districts wasn’t a problem,” Rogers said.

Lollis first served as athletic director in 2001 after coaching junior varsity football, wrestling and baseball.

In 1992-93, following eight years at Lexington High School, he coached in RC’s first year after the consolidation of the three county high schools. Lollis said that during that first year at RC, “I was challenged with bringing together student-athletes that had been directed by different coaches and philosophies. First in the fall season, the JV Football group had 47 players and with the help of David Miller, Eric Bond and Paul Williams, I felt like we united these young men to come together and play as RCHS Wild cats. Baseball season brought forth some challenges as well and it had its moments, but the players realized the importance of working together and we had some special wins and made me extremely proud to be their coach.”

In his first year as athletic director in 2001, Lollis said he was going to four different meetings a week. Lollis said he feels the Valley District schools “have always resembled our mold of students and athletes, which has been a bonus.”

Over the years, Lollis has seen athletics grow and improve for RC, with several teams earning district and regional championships, along with several individuals claiming state championships in wrestling, swimming and track and field.

Lollis said one of his biggest accomplishments is creating more competitive programs in both boys’ and girls’ sports. He said his biggest challenge in recent years was to get the girls’ sports to the level of competition of the other schools, and the Wildcats saw great achievements. The volleyball team won the Valley District championships for the last three years and captured two Region 3C championships during that time, making the Class 3 state tournament twice. Other girls’ teams that have had great success in recent years include swimming, cross country, lacrosse, softball, softball and track and field.

Lollis has enjoyed working with coaches to prepare and teach studentathletes the skills necessary to be successful.

After he’d been thinking about retiring for a little while, Lollis decided this was the right time. His wife, Beth, retired in 2015 from teaching math at RC. “There are some things I want to do with her and for her,” he said. He added they want to visit their mothers in South Carolina, and he looks forward to spending more time with his son, Eric.

Lollis looks back fondly at RC and admitted it wasn’t easy to leave. “I’ll miss being around the kids,” he said. “That’s the hardest part, especially with what happened this spring.”

“The student-athletes here are special because we are such a socioeconomically diverse county, and it presents us with challenges that many areas do not experience, but we always find a way to prevail and represent RCHS with pride,” Lollis said. “We are sometimes left out of the mix because of our location, and that is evident with the number of times we have been moved from one district or region to another.”

“The support at our sporting events are always overwhelming, and as I tell the other schools, we bring a crowd of support when we come to play you,” he noted. “Our fans supporting the student-athletes at RCHS is a special situation.”

Lollis also said it has been a pleasure to work with various principals, including Craft and former principals Scott Jefferies and Andy Bryant. He gave credit to athletic secretary Jeannie VanNess for “putting people on the right track.”

Going over his philosophy in athletics, Lollis said he tries to give honest opinions. He said that, in his most recent years as athletic director, he asked the question, “Are you in it to get everybody a trophy, or are you in it to compete and win? There are times where I’ve had to step in and have individual conversations with coaches. I’ve always told coaches, you’ve got to bust your tail every day in practice. I don’t ever want a player to feel cheated.”

As Gale prepares to take over at RC, Lollis has some words of advice for him.

“The AD job is not one that can be ‘assumed’ because you truly have to experience it in order to understand it. There will always be folks on the outside that think they know your job or can do a better job and for that type of person(s), it is not something to worry about or even entertain. You have to believe and trust in yourself. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for advice or help from other ADs or administrators.”

‘Rick taught us that winning was important, but winning with respect and sportsmanship. Rick was very firm with that. We didn’t get many suspensions.’ - Travis Rogers

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