BY JACLYN ROSE –
Ryan Gilbert attended the University of Arkansas immediately following his graduation from Mena High School in 1994, but moved home when his father purchased Gilbert Hard Rock Drilling, a locally based company that travels around the state of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma drilling, “basically if it has to do with water, wells, septic systems, we do it,” explained Gilbert.
In 1996, Gilbert was introduced to his wife, Angela, through mutual friends. The couple fell in love and was married six months later. “Angela is a wonderful person. She is always doing for others,” said Gilbert. The couple now have two children, Riley, an eleven year old, sixth grader at Mena Middle School, and Alaina, a six year old, first grader at Louise Durham Elementary. “There are a million things I enjoy about being a father, but teaching my kids to have a good work ethic is so important to me, if you don’t have that in life, you won’t be successful at anything,” said Gilbert.
When Riley was in the third grade, Gilbert, along with Clint Montgomery, began coaching the Mena Youth Football Little League Team. Four years later, these men have put in at least 850 hours with this talented group of young men. The incredible dedication of the coaches, athletes, and parents allowed them to go all the way to the state finals this season. “Our association is run so well and Greg Aleshire, who heads it up, is the reason. He does a wonderful job at not only maintaining everything but also keeping it functioning properly,” explained Gilbert.
Through the last four years both the team and coaching staff developed and matured into a well-oiled machine. Aside from Montgomery and Gilbert, Ray Hunter, Dr. Bill McCourtney, Logan McCourtney, and Brad House each contributed to the coaching staff, bringing their individual areas of expertise. “Clint and I were already good friends but I gained so much respect for the other coaches as I got to know them and see what they brought to the table. Logan is very spiritual and was really good at motivating the boys, Brad played football in college and was great at improving the defensive line, Bill and I worked together a lot and the fact that he had coached a team in years prior brought so much knowledge to the table, he’d been through it before. Ray, as an assistant high school coach in the past, knew how to teach the kids properly and was able to teach them more advanced skills. He was the offensive coordinator but had veto power in most areas. And Clint did a great job facilitating and keeping everything going in the right direction as the head coach. It was a really good time. We started coaching almost out of necessity, they needed help and parental involvement, and we really wanted to be there for each of the boys and ensure they got good guidance and a good foundation. Every single one of the kids on the team brings something different and I can’t wait to see how they continue to grow together as a team. The fun is about to start now with them entering school athletics,” explained Gilbert.
In addition to coaching Mena Youth Football, Gilbert also coaches a Dixie League Baseball Team that also made it to the finals of the state playoffs in their last season. “I really enjoy baseball and this next season we are going to get past the hump and hopefully make it all the way to the World Series,” Gilbert said.
“I also love to wake board. I got Riley his first wake board when he was two years old and he was up on it by the time he was four. We enjoy snowboarding and Alaina has started to ski, so pretty much all year long we are active in something,” said Gilbert.
“Polk County is a wonderful community. It’s been my family’s home for the last 100 years or so, everybody is from here and it’s a wonderful place to raise your family. It’s comfortable,” Gilbert said. “We work everywhere else so I see what it’s like and I can’t imagine living anywhere else, its home.”