That's one reason Powell has been named the winner of the 2005-2006 Bill Vaught Memorial Area Coach of the Year. The award is named for Vaught, the long-time sports editor of The Advocate-Messenger who died 10 years ago, and sponsored by The Kentucky Advocate and Coffman's Trophy Shop in Junction City.
The selection committee considers not only past athletic accomplishments, but also what the coach has meant to a program, the challenges the coach encountered and the coach's community involvement when determining the winner.
"You could not have found a better candidate," said Burgin Supt. Richard Webb. "He's a first-class individual and has been great for our kids and school system. He's a very knowledgeable baseball coach, but he also understands the small school concept. He's here for the kids first."
Just completed his second season
Burgin athletics director Don Irvine nominated Powell, who completed his second season as Burgin's head coach, for a variety of reasons.
"He has spent 10 years coaching baseball in various levels in Mercer County. He still serves as a member of the Mercer County Little League baseball board," Irvine said. "He's been in Burgin about 13 years, and he's spent 11 years working with the students at Burgin either as a middle school basketball coach, middle school baseball coach, assistant high school baseball coach or head baseball coach.
"He also serves as public address announcer for the high school boys basketball team and, when needed he runs the clock at the games. He's an elder at Burgin Christian Church and is active in various community and school functions. We're just lucky to have him."
Actually, Powell feels he's blessed to be coaching at Burgin. He's coached three players on the team, including his son, Ian, a freshman, since they were 8 years old. "I have total confidence in them. If they are on the basepaths or batting, they know exactly what I am talking about," he said.
He's also coached several players that played on Mercer County's district championship team this year.
Powell normally works a 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift at KU. However, during baseball season, he works straight through lunch so he can be at practice by 3:30.
"It can make for some long days, but it is worth it," Powell, who also has a younger son, Jarrod, said.
Credits others with success
He almost apologizes for taking any of the credit for Burgin's success this season even though the Bulldogs had the area's youngest team. Burgin was 7-15 in 2005 when it lost numerous one-run games. This year the Bulldogs turned those close games into victories against basically the same schedule.
"We got a lot of fan support this year, which was good to see. It doesn't take much for kids at a small school to get down on themselves. But I heard the kids say they would be out some place and somebody would ask them if they played at Burgin and congratulate them on having such a good year. That means a lot to these kids," Powell said.
"It's hard to play at a small school. Kids know it is not easy to win. We have 132 kids in grades 9-12. If we play a school of 400, that's a 3-to-1 disadvantage in numbers. If our kids don't come with everything they have, they don't have a shot to win. This was maybe the first year where the guys knew they had a shot to win any time they came to play. That really helps.
"I could care less if my name is ever in the paper as long as my kids are getting their names in there for what they are doing. I am here for them. I hope nobody knows I coach at Burgin. I just want them to know we have some good kids who know how to play."
Winners of The Bill Vaught Memorial Coach of the Year award:
1997 - Alvis Johnson, Harrodsburg
1998 - E.G. Plummer, Danville
1999 - Roger Coyer, KSD
2000 - Jay Reynolds, Danville
2001 - Sam Harp, Danville, and Chuck Smith, Boyle County (tie)
2002 - Duane Dunagan, Harrodsburg, and Ed McKinney, Danville (tie)
2003 - Ken Hurt, Garrard County, and Jim Spears, Boyle County (tie)
2004 - Hallie Hammond, Harrodsburg; Sam Harp, Danville; and Chuck Smith, Boyle County (tie).
2005 - Diane Beauchamp, Mercer County; John Kolasa, Lincoln County; and Chuck Smith, Boyle County (tie)
2006 - John Powell, Burgin