Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 07 July 2009 15:02
Coaches come and coaches go. When a high school coach steps down from a head coaching position, but stays at the school to teach, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that administrators don’t have to fill another teaching position. The bad news is that they have one less teaching position available while searching for a coach.
I don’t have any statistics to back up my theory, but it seems that this phenomenon is happening more frequently.
This spring, when Len Coryea stepped down as head football coach at Hillsboro High School, but said he would remain in the classroom, I’m sure the powers-that-be didn’t waste time exploring their options for hiring a new head football coach. But results have been slow in coming.
Although the Trojans never advanced to a state championship game, Coryea racked up more than modest success and a consistency that will be hard to maintain. There’s no reason to believe he was under any pressure to step down.
The fact that no replacement was named well into summer illustrates how difficult it can be to fill coaching positions. Here’s why.
First, we envision that when a coach steps down, the incoming person will be the head coach, but that’s not always the case if the coach stays to teach. The smaller the school district, the fewer opportunities there are to hire new personnel.
If few of the teachers retire or leave, the school doesn’t have the luxury of hiring a teacher/coach combination.
Maybe the demands on coaches have increased, and maybe it’s just my imagination, but many coaches used to coach until retirement or until they left for another school. Again, I don’t have numbers to back it up, but at a time when schools have more sports and more coaching positions to fill than ever before, a number of coaches are getting out of the game while staying in education.
Anytime a head coach steps aside, a prime option for a school is to promote one of the assistant coaches. In fact, Coryea was promoted to head coach at HHS when the position opened up a few years ago.
In this case, there appear to be several capable assistant coaches who could be promoted, but it’s hardly ideal. One is a head basketball coach, another is the head wrestling coach.
It’s a lot to expect them to be head coach of a fall and winter sport. I suppose it could be done, but it’s a blueprint for burnout, not to mention possible tension among student-athletes and parents who would wonder if the coach is more dedicated to one sport over another.
Also, I don’t think it’s in the best interest of student-athletes to have the same head coach in multiple major sports.
Another option is to buy time. Hire an existing administrator, principal or activities director to temporarily fill the position. HHS did that successfully not too long ago when the high school principal became the head girls’ basketball coach for a year, leading the team to a state championship.
Alas, the administrator has to be both willing and qualified to be head coach. It’s not often you’ll find an administrator who meets both criteria.
A slightly different option is to find a suitable coach, a qualified non-teacher from outside the school district. That probably isn’t a viable long-term solution, because that person more often than not has another job to work around, in addition to the responsibilities that come with coaching.
Granted, it’s probably easier to find qualified non-teacher coaches in a metropolitan area than in rural Marion County.
Still another possibility is asking a retired coach to help out, but those options are likely to be limited, and the person would also need to have the desire to do the job.
If my perception is correct, it would be interesting to know why coaching vacancies are increasing now.
It could be the pay for coaching isn’t enough to offset the time involved.
It could be the graying of high school faculties, with a disproportionate number of teachers/coaches reaching an age where coaching is just too much, but the teacher salary is needed for a few more years.
No doubt the proliferation of sports is a factor. And maybe there are other burnout factors — too much parental pressure, cranky columnists, whatever.
The bottom line is that a school district can be in a difficult position through no fault of its own, and simply has to forge ahead and explore every feasible option.
Given the competitiveness of the football program, one hopes that the situation at HHS will be resolved successfully.