WHITLEY COUNTY — Though it may have gone unrecognized by some, it was a historical moment in Whitley County on Saturday as the county’s first two Black varsity basketball coaches faced off in a game at Whitko.
David Goodwell and Justin Jordan are the new head coaches of Churubusco and Whitko, respectively, bringing minority leadership to Whitley County athletics for the first time in history.
According to the U.S. Census, Whitley County has one of the largest proportions of White population in the state of Indiana at 97.3%, and one of the smallest proportions of population that identifies itself as Black at 0.5%.
Inherently, many young people in Whitley County are not exposed to other cultures, and the influence of the new coaches has been beneficial in more ways than one.
“Not only is it basketball, but we both work in the buildings as well,” Goodwell said. “There’s kids who have questions all the time. I sit and talk to them and the teachers enjoy it as well — they listen. There’s things they don’t know about my culture from the inner city, and so I teach them about that.”
Goodwell comes from 12 years of experience working at Homestead High School, where there are similar cultural demographics.
“I’m familiar with being around people who are not of color. I love teaching about my heritage and where I come from,” he said. “The girls on the basketball team have questions for me all the time. I can tell they’re learning.”
Goodwell has noticed that the players are also sharing his information with other students around the school — evidence that acceptance is growing with the community’s youth.
“It’s been a great experience,” Jordan said. “We have hard-working kids who are enjoying the process. They’ve bought into what I’ve been teaching. I’ve been enjoying it.”
On the whole, both coaches feel accepted and welcomed into Whitley County.
“The community welcomed both of us with open arms,” Jordan said.
However, they know not everyone will feel the same.
“We understand not everyone is going to be happy or supportive, and that’s OK,” Goodwell said. “Justin and I know how to wave and say, ‘have a good day.’
“We know a majority will embrace us and treat us the right way, and we’ll do the same. It’s been great so far.”
In addition to the two new coaches, Whitko also welcomed the county’s first African American athletic director in Julius Mays.
“We’re taking major steps,” Jordan said.