Lance Abernathy – Class of 1987
Physical Education Teacher, Assistant football coach, Glenview Middle School
Head wrestling coach, T. L. Hanna High School, Anderson, SC

What are the lessons learned from a school coach? And what qualities does that coach hope to instill in his students? As a successful coach, Lance Abernathy can speak from both perspectives and approaches each day focused on how he can best help his athletes progress and achieve goals.

Lance is currently the head wrestling coach at T. L. Hanna High School in Anderson, SC. He also teaches physical education and serves as assistant football coach at Glenview Middle School, also in Anderson.

“I began my teaching career at a small school in South Carolina. In 1997 I was hired as head wrestling coach at Chesterfield High School, where I spent most of my career. I really enjoyed being at Chesterfield. Although smaller than East Burke, it had the same kind of vibe and atmosphere, and it felt much like home. Building a successful wrestling program there was very rewarding. Between 1997 and 2008, my team won eight conference championships in a row as well as four state championships. In addition, 23 of the wrestlers won individual state championships. While at Chesterfield, I also served as assistant football coach, and our team won three state championships.” In addition, he was twice chosen as South Carolina Wrestling Coach of the Year and served as a member of the coaching staff for the post-season North/South All-Star Wrestling Team for South Carolina.

After 2008, Lance took a few years away from coaching to spend valuable time with his young children, but in 2011, he received an opportunity to serve as Athletic Director at Ware Shoals High School in Ware Shoals, SC. After four years there, he accepted the job as Athletic Director at Asheville High School in North Carolina, where he stayed for four years as well. Leaving a small rural school like Ware Shoals to go to a large campus like Asheville High was quite a step up, and his success with managing such a large program was challenging yet fulfilling. The role of Athletic Director is an administrative one that involves managing every aspect of the sports programs at the school, including scheduling, arranging travel, coordinating with other coaches, and handling any problems that may arise. The larger the school is, the more details there are to manage.

“Asheville is a beautiful school. For those who may not have visited there, it is located in the Biltmore area on a campus with historic buildings and fine architecture. I enjoyed my time at Asheville, and I know that I made a difference there, but being an Athletic Director is much different from coaching. After a while, I began to miss the day-to-day camaraderie, the relationship with the students, and the development of the team. I knew that I would love to go back to teaching and coaching when the time was right for both my family and for me.”

In the fall of 2019, that opportunity presented itself at T. L. Hanna High School. Movie buffs may recall the 2003 film “Radio,” that featured an all-star cast including Ed Harris and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The movie is based on a true story that took place at T. L. Hanna High School and was partially filmed there. Also, among its many successful graduates was the late actor Chadwick Boseman. The school is ranked in the top 3% of high schools in the United States.

“This is a great place to teach and coach, and I am proud to be a member of the Yellow Jackets. But much of my love of the sport of wrestling and my enjoyment of coaching came from the great teachers and role models from East Burke High School who influenced me then and continue to inspire me today. Among the coaches who played a significant part in my training were Farrell Street, Jerry Hyde, and Jerry Murray. They taught us so much about both sports and life. I still use the lessons that I learned from them in my own coaching."

“Two particular lessons that stand out from those days and that I continue to emphasize are accountability and goal-setting. The privilege of being on a school team makes a student athlete accountable to his teammates and to his coaches. A non-threatening family atmosphere inspires an athlete to feel responsible for his team. He wants to be there to do his part and knows that they are all in this activity together. He wants to please the other members of the team as well as the coaches and knows that if he messes up that he will feel responsible. Working both individually and together makes the bond stronger and the team pride greater. Goal setting as an individual and as a team is also very important. The student must ask himself important questions in order to learn what it takes to achieve a particular goal: What is my action plan? What steps must I take to accomplish my goal? What will I do if I have a set-back? How will I handle it both mentally and emotionally? Learning from both mistakes and successes builds resilience so the athlete can bounce back, regain confidence, and improve. These lessons have stayed with me since my days at East Burke, and it is both my privilege and responsibility to guide my student athletes by these principles.” These great lessons learned through participation in high school athletics can easily be applied to any area of life, demonstrating yet another reason why high schools play such an important part in our society."

“Although my primary influence came from my coaches, I realized later that I had also learned a great deal from my other classes. I never considered myself to be exceptional academic student, and after graduation, not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life, I went to work instead of going to school. Getting out and experiencing some of the world helped me realize the route that I wanted to take."

“I graduated from East Carolina University in 1993 with a degree in Physical Education, and I’ll always be a proud ECU Pirate. But physical education majors have to take other classes, too. Although my grades in high school English classes had been less than stellar, I made A’s in my college English courses. Part of that success came from working hard and taking my education seriously, but I also realized that I had received an outstanding foundation in my high school English classes, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. That’s just another example of what fine teachers I met at East Burke and what an important role teachers play in our lives. I think the fact that I turned my educational goals around helps me relate to the kids I teach."

“From the time I was in college, I knew that I wanted to coach wrestling. I also knew that being a proud graduate of East Burke was important to me. I still visit Burke County from time to time, and I drive by the school that I remember so well. I continue to feel that sense of pride in being a Cavalier and hope to continue to pass on the lessons that I learned there to my own students.”

Published March 2021

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