The realm of sports is no stranger to the convention of commending people for their outstanding accomplishments. Year after year, winning teams, coaches and players are acknowledged in a wide range of athletic settings; yet, without the lucrative success typical of colleges and professional franchises, high school sports often lack sufficient funding to do so.
Thomas Dale’s athletic department knows this reality all too well. With over 200 district championships, 29 regional championships, four state titles, and five times being state championship runner-ups, there is plenty of evidence suggesting the school’s priorities lie in winning, rather thanraking in the riches like seafaring pirates. Nevertheless, the Thomas Dale family feels a strong need to celebrate its athletic achievement. Ironically, the school’s rate of athletic success far exceeds the amount of available financial resources needed for such commemoration.
“Thomas Dale truly has a unique problem with the success of our athletic teams,” said Steve Davies, chairman of the school’s committee for Ring of Champions and a teacher and coach at Dale. “With limited funds, how do we recognize these student-athletes in their accomplishments in their winning seasons?”
Alleviating the apprehension stemming from this problem requires help from the community. Since 2008, the Thomas Dale Athletic Department has held an annual fundraiser in May, a golf tournament at River’s Bend Golf Course. The department has allowed people not directly affiliated with the school to participate in the tournament, under specific requirements that they were from the surrounding area and were willing to sponsor a team, he said.
“The golf tournament is our big athletic fundraiser for the year. With the money raised, we are able to recognize Thomas Dale athletes who individually or as a team have achieved a certain level of success,” said Davies. Proceeds from the golf tournament have been used to purchase district, regional and state awards, as well as state championship football rings. “We also use the money to purchase winning teams T-shirts, hoodies, and plaques/trophies to commemorate their success.”
Not only have proceeds from the tournament been used to honor teams throughout Thomas Dale’s rich history, funds raised have sustained the yearly success of a ceremony, one inducting the school’s most laudable individuals into an elite group.
“The Ring of Champions began in 2008 after the Thomas Dale family had suffered three tragic losses (Malcolm Piggott, Matt Gwaltney and Andrew Clarke). We wanted to honor these athletes in some way,” said Davies.
With plans to fulfill this project, a committee was first assembled in January of that year. The first induction ceremony ran in conjunction with the golf tournament and was ultimately a success, earning enough money to pay tribute to a multitude of worthy Knights.
To this day, the committee is composed of nine members -- five coaches and four people from the surrounding area, all having a rich history with the Thomas Dale community -- setting out “to recognize a wide variety of athletes for their accomplishments on and off the field,” added Davies.
The committee undergoes a rigorous, year-round process to venerate the most reputable of Thomas Dale’s finest individuals. Five to six former athletes and coaches are inducted each year. Eligibility for induction to the Ring of Champions requires that coaches have been retired for at least five years, while athletes must be graduates for at least 10 years.
“The goal of the committee is to bridge past athletes and coaches to future athletes. We feel these athletes and coaches have given a significant amount of time, effort and dedication to the Thomas Dale family, and they should never be forgotten.”
What was first a problem evolved into a blessing and established a tradition, solidifying a legacy.
Davies is accepting nominations from the community for the Ring of Champions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Those submitting would be responsible for providing career stats and a small write-up explaining their reasoning for considering the person to be inducted. Candidates for induction should also bleed maroon and gray.