Thursday night the Morristown Parks and Recreation department added three new inductees to their Hall of Fame, welcoming youth coaches and service leaders John Hill, Matthew Thompson and Jeff Tharp to the exclusive club at the 42nd annual Citizen Tribune Parks and Recreation Hall of Fame Banquet at Rose Center.
The three men exemplify what public service and youth coaching is all about, dedicating their time and energy in promoting youth sports, participation and community service.
“This is a night we look forward to each and every year to say ‘thank you’ to so many people who make what we do possible,” Morristown Parks and Recreation Director Craig Price said. “We are excited for the John Hill family, the Matt Thompson family and the Jeff Tharp family as they celebrate their induction into the Hall of Fame. Their service has been duly noted and we’re so thankful to be able to honor them tonight.”
In his introduction of Heath Shuler, Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney stressed the word “volunteer,” perfectly exemplified by the three new hall inductees.
“‘Volunteers’ always gets a part of my heart,” Chesney said. “And I’m not talking about Volunteers in orange jerseys, but those that donate their time. And some of you are here as volunteers because you had volunteers influencing you.”
For the past 24 years, John Hill has served the Morristown community as a coach in the Parks and Recreation system, helping not only improve the sports skillsets and performances for the children which he coached, but building character, instilling confidence and teaching patience, perseverance and how to deal with hardships and setbacks along the way.
He began his coaching career in earnest in 1995 and he hasn’t slowed down since, coaching football, basketball and baseball. He served as the head coach of the Hamblen County Broncos football team from 1995 to 1997 and then the Hamblen County Saints from 1998 to 2000.
Hill did this while coaching the Angels 7/8 year-old baseball team from 1995 to 96 and the Crickets 9/10 year-old baseball team from 1997 to 1998 in addition to coaching the 7/8 year-old Express in Basketball from 1995 to 1996 and the 9/10 year-old Suns from 1997 to 1998. He also served as an assistant on the 9-year-old All-Stars baseball team.
In 1999, Hill hung up his baseball manager’s uniform for a few years, focusing on the Saints in football and serving as the assistant football coach at Westview Middle School in 2001. He coached the Eagles 11/12 year-old basketball team from 1999 to 2000 and the Hurricanes 13/14 year-old team from 2001 to 2002.
That baseball manager’s suit didn’t stay on the rack long. He picked it up again in 2012, coaching the Mariners 7/8 year-old spring team and then the fall team in 2013. He remained with both squads through this past season.
Hill is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and served Hamblen County as a firefighter from 1976 to 1988 in North Hamblen County and then from 2016 to present in West Hamblen County.
Matthew Thompson began his time serving the local sports community in 1999 when he took over head coaching duties for local flag football and basketball teams. For more than a decade after, Thompson helped hone the basketball and football skills of the children of this area, while instilling important lessons in leadership, dedication, character building and community involvement. In that way, he has exemplified what a youth sports coach should be.
Thompson first put on his coach’s whistle with the Jaguars flag football team. Discovering a calling for teaching sports skills and leading young people, Matthew moved into basketball, and spent the next 16 years at the helm of the Raptors.
In 2000, he coached the Raiders flag football team before moving the Lakeway Youth Football Association, coaching the Giants from 2001 to 2003, then the Cowboys from 2004 to 2007 and wrapped up his football coaching career with the Warriors from 2008 to 2009.
Thompson served as the president of the Morristown Youth Football Association from 2007 to 2010.
He is a lifelong resident of Morristown and was a standout athlete in track and field in his time at Morristown West. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Tusculum College and now acts as the Care Coordinator for the Helen Ross McNabb Center.
Thompson is a lifetime member of Young’s Temple AME Zion Church in Morristown and serves on the Finance Committee, the Trustee Board and the Men’s Club.
Since 1990 Jeff Tharp has been a coach and mentor to generations of Lakeway Area children as he’s used the laboratory of learning that youth sports provides to build character, hone sports skills and teach important life lessons needed to craft champions, showing his young players there’s as much to learn from a loss as there is a victory.
Tharp began his coaching career at just 20 years-old, leading a 5-to-7 year-old T-Ball team called the Chiefs from 1990 to 1992. He’s coached travel softball and multiple football teams outside of Parks and Recreation, the 15-to-17 year old Heat in youth basketball that brought him a league championship.
He took over the Heat in 2012 and, a year later, was hoisting the league trophy. That same year he would serve as defensive coordinator on the 9-10 Super Bowl Champion football Falcons.
Tharp remained with the Heat for one more season before moving on to the Dream from 2016 to 2017 and is currently the coach of the 13 to 14 year-old Nets.
He’s been a part of three All-Star coaching staffs from 2006 to 2008 and took a travel softball team to compete in the Milligan College tournament in 2007. Tharp coached 13 to 16 year-old Comets from 2004 to 2007, the 9-to-10 Sounds softball team in 2009, the 13-to-16 year-old Phillies from 2010 to 2012 as well as serving stints in command of the Fawns and Panthers.
Tharp has been a Tech at Colgate for the last decade and he and his family are members of Friendly View Baptist Church in Morristown.