Thursday, April 26, 2012 07:59:37 PM by
By Andy Walter
Delaware State News
Sam Wyliewill never forget this one teacher he was around as a kid.
In the winter, when there was nowhere else for youngsters to hang out, the teacher — Doug Gibson — would open up the gym at Milford’s Banneker School so they could play basketball.
"We would thank him," said Wylie. "And he always told us, ‘You don’t have to thank me. (But) when you get older, do the same thing for some kids.’"
Wylie never forget that message. Indeed, he’s spent much of his life living it.
Last Saturday night in Dover, Wylie was one of 12 people inducted into the Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame.
By his own admission, the long-time Milford resident was never a star athlete himself. Rather, he’s helped a lot of young people reach their own athletic potential.
Whether it was driving Kent County kids to Wilmington so they could run track or working as a high school basketball referee for 37 years, Wylie always found a way to lend a hand.
In the 1970s, Wylie became the first black official for Board 129, which works basketball games in Kent and Sussex County. He realized the importance of his role.
"I said, ‘Well, if I start refereeing and do a good job, I could open the door for other black officials,’" said Wylie, who later served as Board 129’s president. "I wasn’t really so concerned about being the first one, but I just wanted to open the door."
When he was hired as the junior varsity coach at Greenwood High in the old Henlopen Conference, Wylie was the first black basketball coach in the league.
"I never thought about that until later years," he said. "I went through the whole season and never thought about (the fact) that all the opponents’ coaches were white. Nobody ever brought it up to me.
"Some of my friends would come to see me coach, they’d say, ‘Oh man, we finally got somebody black coaching.’ But I never thought of it that way. I just thought of it as coaching."
Really, Wylie started on his athletic path in high school. Like other black youngsters in Kent County in the 1950s, he attended Dover’s William Henry Comprehensive High School.
He was good enough to start on William Henry’s basketball squad. But the 1959 graduate was always finding different ways to help out.
In the days when teams had only one coach, he worked as the student manager for several William Henry squads — football, baseball and track. A few times he’d be the public address announcer for football games.
"I always liked those sports but I was never quite good enough to play," said Wylie.
Wylie stayed involved with track. When there was no place for Milford kids to run, he and wife would load up a couple cars and take them to weekly meets at Wilmington’s Baynard Stadium during the summer.
Eventually Wylie got involved with the Hershey Track and Field Youth Program. He was the state’s coordinator of the program for three decades, taking kids to regional and national meets.
In 2008, Wylie was presented with Hershey’s McQuaid Award.
Wylie even found time to umpire in baseball and softball, serving on the high school softball state tournament committee.
Actually, Wylie made a career out of doing whatever was needed. In 2008, he retired after 44 years in the Woodbridge School District.
Among other things, he worked as a teacher, counselor, acting assistant principal, disciplinarian and visiting teacher. And, even though he’s retired, Wylie is still chipping in.
Since March, he’s been working as the acting assistant principal at Phyllis Wheatley Middle School.
The bottom line is that Wylie just really likes giving kids something positive to do with their lives.
"If they were doing that," said Wylie, "they wouldn’t be out doing other things that may not be very good.
"A lot of things you do in life you don’t do for an award or anything. You do them because, at the time, you think it’s the best thing for others or to break ground for others."
There were a few other people with downstate ties who went into the Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Lincoln native Harry Crapper was a graduate of Georgetown’s Jason High who made a name for himself as a semi-pro baseball player between 1957 and ‘72. He was a three-time MVP in the Delaware Semi-Pro League.
Lewes' Perry Reese also went from Jason High to playing semi-pro baseball. He later played football with a U.S. Army team.
Alphonso Stevensonwent from Jason High to a football scholarship at Delaware State College. A linebacker, he was invited to camps with both the Jets and the Eagles.
Wes Townsendwas a high-scoring basketball standout at Indian River High who earned a scholarship at Delaware State.
Ben Sirman was known as a long-time coach at both Bridgeville and Seaford High before retiring in 2003. Purnell Griffin later became a long-time coach and official at Dover Air Force Base.
Odds & ends
•Caesar Rodney High grad Jimmy Miracle set a Delaware Tech-Terry Campus lacrosse record when he netted eight goals in the Hawks’ 19-18 overtime win over ASA College this week. The Magnolia native currently has 27 goals and 11 assists.
•Dover International Speedway and Pocono Raceway will hold a celebrity softball game featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Carl Edwards and Jeff Burton on May 15 at Campbell’s Field in Camden, N.J. Access to the Team Dover vs. Team Pocono game is free with a ticket to that night’s minor league baseball game.
•Sussex Central High grad Kristin Cooper set the Washington College softball record for strikeouts in a season with 79.
•St. Thomas More has coaching vacancies for the 2012-13 school year for varsity field hockey head coach and varsity boys’ basketball head coach. Interested applicants can submit a cover letter, resume, and list of references to: Dean Burrows, Director of Athletics at email@example.com or to Lynn Price, Associate Director of Athletics at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications must be received by May 1.
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or email@example.com.