"That is such a thankless job."
That's not the quote I get from telling people that I'm a teacher. That's the quote I often get when I tell people that I'm a high school basketball coach. Maybe the reaction is different in other towns. Maybe it's a small town thing. I'm not all together sure. However the reason that reaction comes about is not from the long hours or the nil pay. It's the politics of coaching. It's the amazing amount of garbage that comes about from the all the intricacies of sports. It's also the reason why less and less teachers are taking coaching jobs.
That's a concern. A huge concern. You know the entire football program has only one on-campus coach? Out of the entire basketball program, both girls and boys, I am the only on-campus coach. That's six total positions. Baseball, softball, golf, swimming....all have many more off-campus coaches than teachers. Now you might think that's a good thing; off campus coaches might have more experience and more financial capital to keep a team going. Except that coaching is much more than "run the pick and roll" or throwing pick-off signs to the catcher. Coaches that are on-campus have greater access to other teachers, to grades, to IEPs, to resource specialists, to the principal, to the athletic director, and most importantly, to the rules that now govern the California Interscholastic Federation.
So what are the more in-depth reasons for the new drought of coaches within the high school system?
1. It is cost prohibitive. Sure, no coach ever really coaches "for the money." However the little stipend that coaches usually recieve used to suppliment the regular paycheck. Now the stipend offsets the monetary cost to being a coach. Fingerprinting will cost $40-50. CPR-First Aid will run $75-100. The manadatory "Fundamentals of Coaching" certification will cost $52. Tuberculosis testing will run around $10. And that's to get in the door. Since there is no athletic transportation, and since every game we play is an hour away, gas will run a pretty penny. So will food at all these games. And money you "loan" to players that forgot their money or can't afford food. Want to go to tournaments? Lots of out-of-pocket costs will go to the coach, including any overages in cost of housing. For a young teacher that wants to coach, the money going out becomes a serious hinderence. And I haven't even discussed the off-season costs yet....
2. There is no longer an off-season. Somewhere along the line people go the idea that to be a lot better at basketball you must practice, drill, and play for tweleve months out of the teacher. The season goes from the beginning of November to the end of February. After that comes AAU until June. Then Summer tournaments, practices, and leagues go until August. You get August off. Then September to November is Fall ball. The season doesn't really end and it is now the EXPECTATION that you make it year long. Locally people point to Cardinal Newman and Montgomery high schools as examples of thriving year-long programs. Yeah. It's the horses that both these schools have, and running ours into the ground makes marginal gains. But the expectation is still there. Coaching should be year-round. If not....
3. "I'll go to the School Board." Almost every year there comes the commentary that if you don't change line-ups, playing time, warm-up music, pre-game meals, cologne, that the school board will about it. Letter or to your face, the School Board card is something that will make any young teacher blanch, especially when it's in a small town like this where the school board will actually listen. And yes, I've seen playing time become the reason for removing a coach. And so have you. Just look at your newspaper.
4. We all coach potential Division 1 college prospects. The parent-child relationship is a lot different now. Parents do everything for their child and the world revolves around the child, and not in a healthy way. This translates to athletic competition where parents will often remind coaches that their kid is better than everything else. At one time you could say "no" and just move on. Now you have to give 60 Minutes style evidence, presented in a compassionate format, that the child probably won't have a college athletic career (like almost everyone else). This takes time and energy, and new teachers don't often have the patience to constantly deal with it.
5. You are doing it wrong. It's amazing how many people want to tell you how to do your job. This will be my 22 year as a basketball coach, 18 of them as a high school head coach. Someone always has commentary about what is wrong with how coaches do things. If it's behind the scenes...meh...always happens. But in a small town it's done in public. And I don't just mean soap box, I'm talking about in front of everyone, at the grocery store, at Wal-Mart, you name it. It's harder and harder for a young coach to actually learn the process without a good mentor, and while the other people try to use their platform.
Of course this sounds so negative, and that's because it is. I love coaching. It's teaching on a greater level that includes instant assessments, interested students, and skills that are valuable in life. But it has changed, and I'm watching schools go through turmoil because they can't fill positions on varsity level teams. Some that are filled are immediately challenged by BS politics and massive egos. I've watched kids have to go through court proceedings, legal battles, and physical altercations just because people disagree on who coaches and how. But a lot of this can be solved by money and support. Athletics needs to be fully funded. Coaches shouldn't have to drive players to contests and spend outrageous amounts of money to do their job. And most importantly, coaches need the accountability and support like a teacher would have. Coaches are teachers, yet many people look the other way when coaches act in a poor fashion. Just as people look the other way when coaches get bludgened from parents or community figures.
The value of athletics is is very high, especially the monetary cost end versus the future benefits. I would love to see more teachers jump into the pool of coaching; they being the best match because of the benefits of constantly being on-campus for the kids. But if we don't start getting a grip on the profession of coaching, it's walk-on city for a long time.