BIG SANDY — A few weeks ago, Thomas Dilworth was looking forward to his sixth season as the Big Sandy boys basketball coach. He says he was placed on paid administrative leave after a team meeting he held between himself and the players.
Dilworth said he has struggled with mental health in the past several years, exacerbated by post traumatic stress disorder and a custody issue involving his daughter, and said he wanted to share his perspective and his experience with his players.
"I felt overwhelmingly compelled that I needed to kind of share what I had been going through the last two years with the boys, and I did," Dilworth told MTN Sports.
MTN reached out to Big Sandy Public Schools Superintendent Dan Schrock for comment. Schrock said Dilworth has been placed on paid administrative leave for the remainder of the season due to a personal reason, and did not provide additional details.
"If you would have asked me (if) I ever thought this would happen in this community, I would say no," said Dilworth's wife, Heather. "I mean, there's a lot of good people here."
Dilworth said he thinks this is sending the wrong message about mental health to the community and added that it's not about getting his job back anymore.
"My biggest concern is the message that has been sent to the kids about if you talk about mental health, there's going to be a bad consequence," he said.
He and Heather said the last several weeks have been hectic, but they've felt support.
"People have been very supportive of him for the last five years," Heather said. "I was the cheer advisor and I specifically did cheer because he was a coach and I was going to all the games and I had to let them know that I wasn't going to do cheer anymore. If you guys can't even support my husband as a coach and help with his mental health, why would I want to work here too?"
Dilworth made a post on Facebook which inspired other people to share with him their stories about mental health.
"I explained to them very descriptively how it took everything out of me to just get up and try to move forward each day," he said. "They talked about having to give up driving for a certain period of time because all I could think about was which power pole I wanted to put my vehicle into."
They've gotten dozens of messages from community members as well as people they don't know. He says he wants this situation to help inspire people to come forward and wants to start more conversations about mental health in a proactive way.
"I got into coaching because I want to have a change and impact on kids. A positive impact," Dilworth said. "The responsibility of a coach, any coach that's worth their salt, is going to be teaching them skills that are going to help them be successful in life."
Dilworth said he is exploring other coaching opportunities as the situation is ongoing.