The Penn Yan Academy Athletic Hall of Fame announced the 2016 class of inductees last week. The PYA Hall of Fame induction banquet and ceremony will be held on Homecoming Weekend, with the banquet and induction ceremony scheduled for Friday, Oct. 7. The new class will be introduced at halftime of the Penn Yan/Wayne football game on Saturday, Oct. 8. The next few weeks we will feature profiles of the incoming Hall of Fame class. First up will be Coach Edward Pond.
Legendary: By definition, a story or person from an earlier time whose story is preserved by tradition or popularity. This word is thrown around liberally in the world of sports, and many times without accuracy. But in Penn Yan, we can safely use the term “legendary” when talking about Coach Edward L. Pond. His successful coaching career at PYA, especially in the sport of football, is documented by fact and validated by the people he coached and influenced. In October, “Legendary” Coach Edward Pond will be inducted in the Penn Yan Academy Athletic Hall of Fame. A place where his coaching accomplishments will be preserved and his story known to future generations. An honor certainly deserved.
Edward Pond was born in Penn Yan and attended Penn Yan Academy. He was a member of the PYA Class of 1926. He excelled scholastically in high school. Athletically, he was the captain of the Orange and Blue basketball team and also played baseball. Penn Yan did not have a football team during these years. The sport of football would arrive at PYA in 1931. Ed Pond would return to Penn Yan in 1933 to embrace this game. This time, not as a player, but as a coach. He would develop an innovative high school football program that was second to none in the area. For the next 22 years, Edward Pond would serve Penn Yan Academy as a physical education teacher, coach, and athletic director. Except for two years when he served in the Army Air Corps. During World War II, he would guide the Orange and Blue gridiron program. They would become the Penn Yan Mustangs in 1951. Ed Pond also coached some basketball and baseball during his tenure.
Coach Pond attended Syracuse University after graduating from PYA. At S.U., he played and lettered in basketball and cross country, but he also became fascinated with the game of football. He studied the game and developed some theories and ideas on how the game should and could be played. Coach Pond would introduce his ideas of the game of football a couple of years later as coach of the Penn Yan Orange and Blue. He took over the reins of the PYA gridiron program in the fall of 1933. They went 3-4 that year. Winning became the normal result in the years to come including two undefeated, championship teams in 1944 and 1948.
The biggest factor in those years was that his players bought into his program and ideas. They respected and believed in him. Coach Pond was a taskmaster for sure. He believed his teams should be in top physical condition and heworked his teams very hard. Long practices would end with seemingly endless running and sprints, and it paid off. Penn Yan football teams were always the best conditioned on the field. Coach Pond also took his players to football workshops to learn the basics and fundamentals. They knew how to block and tackle. When the evening darkness threatened to curtail practice, Coach Pond introduced footballs painted white. These “ghost footballs” were visible in the dusk and practice would continue. His only coaching prop was a customary toothpick.
Coach Pond was an innovative and resourceful coach when it came to game time strategy and tactics. He loved to surprise his opponents. When every other team in the area was using the old straight “T” offense, the Orange and Blue forces came out with the single and double wing attack. In the 1950’s Penn Yan was the first area high school to use a spread formation. The Orange and Blue teams were difficult to defend. And they were rugged too on defense. It was a winning combination. Coach Pond loved to refer to his teams as his “Gridiron Grenadiers.” It was a successful program, proud of accomplishments; a “team” in every sense of the word. and Coach Edward Pond was the architect of it all.
Off the field, Coach Pond was just as strict and demanding. During the season, a 10 p.m. curfew was strictly enforced. School work and grades were of the utmost importance. Any alcohol or tobacco use would get you kicked off the team. The coach led his team by example. He seldom raised his voice and never would swear. The strongest words ever to come out of his mouth was “Hells Bells.” But he effectively got his point across. His players never wanted to let him down. They had the ultimate show of respect. They didn’t want to disappoint him. They loved the man and respected him. He was their leader. He was their coach. Certainly a coaching and life experience resume that deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. And now, it is. Coach Edward Pond, PYA Athletic Hall of Fame, Class of 2016.
A quick footnote: Stories and legends have a tendency to be a bit enhanced over time. For many years I enjoyed talking and exchanging stories with those who had played for Coach Ed Pond. They had some fantastic tales of the “Ed Pond Years.” They seemed to idolize the man years after their playing days were over, and it always appeared sincere. And then I had a chance to see this affection first hand.
In 1981, I was part of a group that developed a fund-raising football game called the “Woodchuck Bowl.” The National Football League players were on strike that fall, so this was an activity to help fill the void. One of the teams competing was named “The Gridiron Grenadiers” with many Ed Pond-coached players on the roster. Coach Pond came to Penn Yan to be their “Honorary Coach.” He arrived on the sideline and quickly there was a crowd of players huddled around him with hugs and smiles. Over 30 years had passed, but nothing had changed. Their coach was here and they had to give their respects. The players gave their coach a fresh box of toothpicks and it was “Game On.”