Who Should Coach?

In my role as the Athletic Rep at Stony Plain Central School, it is partly my job to find and organize coaches for our Jr. High sports teams and programs. Over the last five years, this hasn’t been an easy spot to be in, but I have to say, people have always managed to step up whether it be teachers, administrators or sometimes even parents. Today, I am sad to say, it looks like I may be unable to find that person or people.

It seems that the current teachers at our school have too many other commitments, most of which include work, family and leadership outside of school as well. Last week, I held a meeting of all boys in grades 6 to 8 who were interested in playing basketball. In the end, I had 25 of them say they would like to try out. So I implored them to go home and ask, no BEG, their parents to come and coach the junior boys team. I had a few bites, but in the end, those who had seemed likely to take on the role decided that it was too much of a commitment for them.

I am now in quite a time crunch. You see, I have to declare by Friday whether or not we have teams. I have to admit, I am frustrated by this situation and that brings up a question that I am struggling to answer: In a school system where coaching is a %100 volunteer position, who should be expected to coach school sports teams?

I’m torn in two by this question. My first, automatic response is that teachers should be doing the coaching. We know the school and division policies, are trained to work with kids (seems like a no-brainer, but lots of outside coaches know their sport well, but don’t know how to handle young people) and can use sport to help build relationships with students and to help build a positive culture in the school. I have lived by that belief. It has been a part of my worldview. Coaching volleyball is something I have always enjoyed, felt confident in and saw the benefit of. I want to do it right. I want to attend a lot of tournaments (we do six in senior volleyball). My own children have been dragged along to volleyball games and tournaments since they were only months old. It is something I am passionate about. And I don’t mean passionate about volleyball, although I do love the game, I mean passionate about contributing to our school culture and sense of pride.

My second response is that I completely understand teacher’s reluctance to coach school teams. In order to do it right, it takes A LOT of time. It is not just the coach that is willing to spend that time, but their family who sacrifices time with them. My heart gets torn out every time I hear my kids say, “You have to go to volleyball again? Can’t you just stay here with us?” I explain to them that while I do not enjoy spending time away from them, it is important to me, and I am helping people. When I am in the stands watching them play hockey, someone else’s mom or dad is on the ice coaching them. It’s a trade of sorts. Many people are not willing or able to make that trade. I completely understand that. As my kids get older, it is getting harder and harder for my family to manage all of our commitments during volleyball season. What kind of trade is one that boosts school culture, but hurts – sometimes irreparably – family culture? That is not a fair thing to ask and while I know that some administrators will pressure teachers to coach, I’m not prepared to do that.
So now we are left with our 25 boys who are interested in playing, but no one to take over the team. Who owes it to them? Teachers? Parents? the Community? Don’t we all?

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4 thoughts on “Who Should Coach?

  1. It IS becoming increasingly more difficult to find quality individuals to step up and take on some of these roles in our district as well. The many demands placed upon the teaching staff with new standards, new assessment practices, evaluation systems, etc. all have raised the anxiety while offering little in the way of the balance needed to maintain a school climate that fosters collegiality in the way it needs to happen. It used to be new teachers jumped in and did a lot of the coaching/advising – in part to supplement teaching salaries but more that it was an expectation of administration. These activities continue to be hugely important to students and in building a culture of community…we need to continue to build on that and not lose sight of the importance of paying it forward in this manner. Who can’t think of a coach , teacher, or advisor that made a huge impact on their life through interactions that had nothing to do with classroom pedagogy? Good luck!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Doug. I was struck by the recollection of the “new” teachers taking on the coaching and extracurricular clubs and activities. That WAS the way it used to be done. Those people were expected to do it. There is definitely less of that pressure on beginning teachers now. I guess because I grew up in a sport culture all my life, I see education and school climate as a “team” challenge. If we all do our part, the load is less. If the weight of coaching falls on a small handful of people, soon the load becomes unbearable and when it falls, there is no one in place to raise it back up. Thanks again for your thoughtful response.

  2. Great article Marci. I agree it is always a tough job to find coaches and a job I don’t particularly like also. Sports are so HUGE in developing a positive school climate and building a school’s culture. What we do at Greystone is try to have 2 teachers share a team. This way if someone can’t make it then the other is there. (I know you are trying to find just 1 coach which is difficult enough).

    We have in the past had former students coach teams, and I have found it is easier for me t get a staff member, or a couple staff members to share the supervisor duties of the team.

    I wish I had an answer for you as I know how important it is to have teams. I also know the feeling of trying to juggle your family life and coaching school teams.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks for the comment, Lonnie. I was lucky enough to find two staff members who are very willing to supervise. The problem is that they know next to nothing about basketball and are very reluctant to get involved as a coach. I have put my “feelers” out to former students and even parents but have come up empty. I am holding out hope, but time is running out. Thanks for the well wishes and if you know anyone who could coach, let me know!

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