One of the special aspects of the Long Beach sports world is how community-based it is, and how many programs feel like a family. The Long Beach Poly football team has always been one of those teams, and that’s been evident in how the program has grieved and remembered Keith “Slice” Thompson, the beloved longtime assistant coach who passed away in November 2020.
Thompson had been the coach of the school’s lower-level team as well as a varsity assistant for decades, and as such he had a special relationship with kids who passed through the team, having mentored (often with humor) many of them through the transition into high school. Always quick with a joke and a positive comment, he was a big part of the love that infuses the interior of the Jackrabbits’ program, which presents outwardly as hard-nosed and fierce.
Head coach Stephen Barbee and the rest of Poly’s coaches, players, and campus felt Thompson’s loss acutely, and they’ve remembered him in a variety of ways, including sticker decals on their helmet. For the last two seasons, the Jackrabbits have also broken huddles with “1-2-3-Slice!”, a refrain that carried them deep into the postseason in 2021, with a CIF-SS Division 4 championship included.
The team showed how deep its love for its former coach was at its recent CIF-SS championship ring ceremony. The rings serve as a rich reward for a championship season, but also as a small museum of the program’s history, with references to Poly traditions and mottos on it, as well as the name of each ring’s recipient engraved on one side. On the other side, written in gold, is “SLICE,” with an LB logo underneath, and the word “FAMILY” below that.
There’s no doubt the Jackrabbits are a family, and the way they lovingly paid tribute to a missing member of their family this year proved it. The family also extended an invitation to Thompson’s wife and daughter when they did their ring ceremony earlier this month, making sure that Thompson’s family knew they were still a part of the Poly family.