(Good)year of UCMS is great news to Ward

(Good)year of UCMS is great news to Ward
(Good)year of UCMS is great news to Ward

Union City Middle School coach Ronald Ward hugs Malik Stockdale after the Twisters won the TMSAA West Sectional Tournament.
MEMPHIS — It’s been the best of times and worst of times for Union City Middle School boys’ basketball coach Ronald Ward.
On Thursday, Ward — the paraprofessional Twisters’ head coach — found out that his day job at the  Goodyear Tire plant would be no more by the end of the year.
Fast forward to Saturday and Ward was all smiles again — and soaking wet following an impromptu water bottle shower — after UC’s 65-60 triumph over Fayette-East in the TMSAA Small School West Sectional championship game.
The West Sectional tournament is the richest prize available to a junior high team as no state tournament is held for middle school in Tennessee.
“Thursday was a hard day,” said Ward, a 23-year veteran at Goodyear. “Having to coach this team has helped me to put it (Goodyear’s closing) in the back of my mind. I’ve had this tournament or practice to look forward to every night since I got the news.
“Focusing on this has helped to take some of the sting out of it. I had to get the kids prepared for these games. With three trips to Memphis, there hasn’t been a lot of down time to think about what all is going on.”
With all of the hoops action over now, Ward — who has moonlighted as a basketball official for 13 years — is hopeful that the news of Union City’s first-ever sectional championship at the middle school level will lift the spirits of his co-workers.
“I hope this team can rally the community and help to get the people of Union City smiling again,” Ward told. “A lot of people drove down to Memphis tonight. I think it gave them something to cheer about, especially with all the bad news about Goodyear this week.”
Ward’s Union City bunch already displayed great resiliency last season when it started 0-7 but went on to win nine of its final 11 games and finish with an even 9-9 worksheet.
“They’ve been through some tough things,” Ward said, referring to the start of the 2009-10 campaign. “They’ve grown a lot in the last year and I feel like they’re my family.”
In terms of the long-term future, Ward — who said he was bombarded with text messages and phone calls of concern on Thursday — said he wasn’t sure what his plans would entail. Reportedly, some Goodyear associates will be given the opportunity to transfer to another of the company’s plants.
“I think God has already planned my future,” said Ward, who graduated from Union City High School in 1982 and has been involved with the UCMS boys’ team as a coach the past seven seasons (five as the skipper). “I’ll trust in Him and if I’m to stay here, a door will open.
“I hope I can stick around. This is where I’ve chosen to be and home. The fans and parents of this team have rallied around me in the past few days and I appreciate everything they’ve done.”
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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