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Mike Holt has been involved in the game of basketball “pretty much” his whole life, including 33 years as a high school referee, but he will now be taking on a role he’s never had before.
He’s going to be a head basketball coach.
More specifically, he will be the girls’ varsity basketball coach for Washington County High School.
“The kids are getting too fast now, so I had to find another way to stay in the game,” Holt joked. “But seriously, I like working with kids because, in most cases, they want to learn, and I’m glad that I’ll be the one teaching them.”
Holt was born in Marion County but has lived most of his life in Nelson County.
Soon after graduating from Nelson County High School, he realized one of his best chances to stay around the game was by becoming a high school basketball referee.
While he’s never been a head basketball coach at the high school level, he think his experience as an official will help make for a smooth transition.
“[A couple of weeks ago], we had a couple of workouts,” Holt said. “We had one player that kept carrying the ball, and I was able to catch that. I’m gonna be able to officiate during practice and be able to know what we can and can’t do in the game.
“We’ll be able to cut down on some things before it ever gets to the first game. That’s going to be a big help, I think.”
Holt believes that another helpful experience from his past will be his 26 years of coaching baseball, including 10 years as a high school head coach.
“I think that helped me learn how to deal with younger people,” Holt said. “I understand where they’re coming from, and that, at this level, education is the most important thing for them. They’ve gotta keep their grades up.
“One of the most important things I did learn is, if someone’s not there, you don’t panic. Pull out another card, and play the cards that are dealt ya. You have to play with what you have, understand what you can and can’t do.”
One of the first things Holt did after getting the job was to hold a meeting for the players and their parents.
He told the group, among other things, that he planned to set the bar high for the program and its players.
“There was a time when people feared this team, back in the Bill Newton days,” Holt said. “I can remember many times when Nelson County and Washington County would have wars because of their coaches, their players, their programs. I wanted to put the scales at a very high level so that they could reach and try to attain that goal.”
According to WCHS principal Paul Terrell, it was, in part, Holt’s philosophy that helped him land the job.
“Mike is going to be a breath of fresh air,” Terrell said. “None of the girls know him, so there won’t be any preconceived thoughts about what to expect. It’s a great way to start a new era.”
Holt says that, already in his short time at the helm, his approach has already been well-received by many people in the community.
For him, the fact that he “doesn’t like to lose” has helped the girls embrace his coaching style as well.
“I told the girls, ‘I can accept losing if we play hard, but if we don’t play hard, I can’t accept it,’” Holt said. “I just wanted to come to Washington County with the intentions of wanting the job, wanted to show them I’m the right guy for the job.
“I hope it works that way by the end of the season.”