In recent times, there’s been talk about a shortage of officials in some high school sports. But that’s not the only challenge. Many schools are stretched to find enough coaches to lead all of their sports programs.
“Activity directors in rural school districts face a number of unique issues – from finding coaches, dealing with transportation issues, recruiting people to work events and – perhaps most importantly – recruiting athletes to field all the teams,” said Lisa Myran-Schutte, athletic/activities director at Pine Island (Minnesota) High School in 2020. “Rural schools have to be creative and collect resources to fulfill all of these needs.”
The challenge of filling the coaching positions in Hillsboro at the middle school and high school level falls on the shoulders of Robert Rempel, middle school and high school assistant principal and activities director.
There are about 40-50 middle and high school coaching positions in the school district, depending on the number of athletes out for the sport. Many coaches will coach multiple sports during the year.
This year, 16 coaches did not work full-time for USD 410. “That number has been climbing the last few years,” said Rempel. One reason for the increase is the pool of available teachers at the school who are qualified to coach a particular sport. Another reason for an increased need for coaching help outside the school district is the amount of time coaching demands.
Certainly USD 410 is blessed to have options outside the school district when coaching help is needed, but there’s a reason most school districts prefer to use coaches from their school staff.
“Having a coach who is on staff in the school is so helpful,” said Myran-Schutte. “He or she has extra contact with the student-athletes, is available for quick communication, and would be (hopefully) a proponent of education-based athletics.”
Coaches are paid extra to coach, but as you might guess, it is not the primary reason most teachers decide to take on the extra responsibilities that are involved in coaching a team.
Athletics are a popular extracurricular activity for students in small towns like Hillsboro. About 55 percent of the student body at Hillsboro High School participates in a fall sport. Roughly 30 percent participate in a winter sport, and about 50 percent enjoy playing in one of the spring sports.
About 70 percent of middle school students play a fall sport, 55 percent of the students play a winter sport, and roughly 45 percent of the students participate in a spring sport.
The casual observer may take notice when the school district hires a coach to lead football, basketball, and volleyball, but parents with school-age children obviously care about who coaches whatever sports that their sons and/or daughters choose to play.
Rempel considers a number of factors when searching for coaches, including “knowledge of the sport, ability to teach fundamentals, ability to teach and manage kids, ability to organize, manage and be a professional are some of the things I am looking for,” said Rempel. “Also, building good coach/athlete relationships with the kids.
“It is an ideal situation if we can have a quality teacher and coach. The truth is, coaches need to have good communication skills with a lot of people,” said Rempel.
Rempel is the point person in finding coaches for USD 410, but by no means is he the Lone Ranger.
“I always ask for administrative opinions, and many times the head/assistant coaches will be in on the interview process, depending on the vacancy,” said Rempel. “After the applicant is interviewed, I will recommend them to the superintendent, who then takes it to the school board for final approval.”
Finding coaches to fill positions, in general, is a challenge, according to Myran-Schutte. “In a rural school, there might be three applicants for an open position. If two of them are not qualified, you are only interviewing one person. If he or she does not ‘fit’ the position, you either have to hire the applicant and hope to ‘mold’ him or her, or you are back to the drawing board,” said Myran-Schutte.
Rempel is doing his best to ensure that Hillsboro’s student-athletes are being led by coaches who are knowledgeable in their sport(s), and who desire to represent the school in a professional manner. It’s an underappreciated, but important task.