Truman High School opened its doors in 1964 and now, the Independence high school will have a pure middle school feeder program, in which all students who attend Pioneer Ridge will now attend Truman. Students who attend Bingham Academy will attend William Chrisman and James Bridger will become a sixth-grade center.
Truman activities director Eric Holm believes this will be highly beneficial for Truman and Chrisman, although it might take a few years to see the positive results with sports teams and other activities at the two Independence schools.
“Besides the academic benefits, it allows us to have streamlined communication with coaches at that level,” Holm said Wednesday afternoon in his Truman office. “I think it is one of the best things the school district has done in the time I’ve spent at Truman.
“It’s a bit like the minor leagues, and how major league teams have players come up through their system to the big leagues. We’re all really excited about this new concept and think it will be beneficial to each school.”
While Truman has excelled in many sports – making multiple final four appearances in boys and girls basketball and winning state championships in baseball, girls basketball and most recently, softball, the Truman football team has struggled for nearly three decades. And the wrestling team has never won a conference championship.
Truman’s football team has enjoyed just one winning season in the past 25 years and just 11 in the history of the school – with those eight coming during an 11-year period in which Truman was an area force to be reckoned with.
“Fort Osage is the shining light when you look at an area school that has a feeder program, and what it has meant to the school – and, especially the football team,” Holm explained. “They struggled for years, but when they developed the one feeder program and a great staff and group of players who wanted to be the team that changed the way people looked at Fort Osage, they became one of the best teams in the area and the state.”
The Indians are consistent state contenders who have been to two Class 5 state championship games in the past five years.
“That’s what we want to do,” Holm said. “I know that (second year) Coach (Gregg) Webb wants to get a group of players who go out and play to win – like the Fort Osage kids do.
“They went out and played well and earned the respect of everyone. That’s what we want to do here. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I believe with this change new feeder school program, it will happen much sooner than people thought it would.”
Holm was quick to admit that a feeder program and newfound lines of communication are not all it will take to resurrect the Patriots football program.
“You need players to buy into the program,” Holm said, “players who will be as dedicated to hitting the weight room in the summer as they are practicing in the fall. You need dedicated coaches, a supportive administration and you need parents who understand that what their kids do in the offseason is as important – or maybe even more important – than what they do during the season.
“This is a huge step in the right direction and we are all very excited about it, because it will make all activities at Truman High School that much stronger.”