Hutton: Coaching should take priority over teaching for football, basketball coaches
September 15, 2012 11:32PM
TAB MUG HUTTON Andy Lavalley/Post-Tribune ptmet
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:48AM
Some schools are ditching the teacher in the building requirement for hiring football and basketball coaches and looking for experienced, retired coaches or finding jobs that are flexible enough to allow them to coach first and educate as a second priority.
At Griffith, Gary Hayes, a well-traveled, well-worn coach with stops at Lake Station, Wirt and Calumet College, among other places, replaced Justin Fornek. Hayes retired 10 years ago from the education profession.
Kankakee Valley hired Brad Stewart, a retired teacher from Lowell, who works for $6,200 — less than 50 cents an hour. He essentially took the job after a free internship. Now, the Kougars are 5-0 for the first time in their history and the whole town is floating in football heaven right now.
Jim East coached at Merrillville for 10 years without teaching — a move that extended his career by a decade. The Pirates brought in TJ Lux, a part-time teacher and business owner.
Russ Radtke has a job at New Prairie — Director of Student Retention —that allows him to basically set up his work schedule during the day. It’s ideal for a busy football coach. Some of those hires were thoughtful, others fortuitous.
On the flip side, Don Howell retired from Hobart in 1997 partially because the school wouldn’t let him quit teaching and stay on as coach after three state titles and a Hall of Fame career.
Highland basketball coach Eddie Fierek, just a puppy, quit because he was burned out from the year-round commitment and the perpetual mountain climbing he’d had to do to stay competitive.
Matt Bush, in his late 50s, retired from Morgan Township for the second time, mostly because of the strain of coaching year-round. He was burned out. Both Fierek and Bush are game to get back in it if the right opportunity comes along.
Portage football coach Wally McCormack quit at Hobart before jumping back into it after a refreshing year off. He was tired of the negative Quicklies and the perpetual stress from unreasonable fans in Brickieville.
This odd maze of young coaches leaving and old ones replacing them proves the old paradigm is broken.
Coaches teach because they want to coach —not the other way around.
When I was young and foolish, I insisted that it should be, that it needed to be, the other way around. That was the ideal —educator first, coach second.
I’d never thought I’d write this sentence but now that the education revolution has arrived in Indiana, where we have the most liberal charter school policy in the country, thanks to Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett, it’s time to consider a public-private marriage to fund the coaching position for revenue producing sports in high school.
There are three reasons that the savvy schools, who now have all kinds of freedom to create their own rules for teacher and coaches, should eventually find a way to fully professionalize the high school football and basketball jobs.
They are essentially full time jobs now. Stewart estimates that he spends 50 hours a week in-season coaching and that he spent 30 hours in-season working as an assistant with a full-time job. Summers have morphed into a succession of summer camps and individual workouts for football coaches and AAU excursions for basketball coaches.
Busy high school coaches were some of the worst teachers I ever experienced. I had one former coach who showed up 20 minutes late for class in-season every single day. Another admitted to me after retiring from coaching that he turned into a much better teacher. Other coaches were fine juggling both, but clearly there were distractions that had to be dealt with if you coached.
A good football or basketball coach or even a good coach in any sport is invaluable and almost certainly underpaid. Case in point: Mike Hackett alone turned Munster into a basketball school. Certainly the Mustangs have a well rounded menu of athletic programs to choose from but basketball is at the top of the list there now. Can you really put a value on what that is worth? Parents move to Munster now so their kids can play basketball. They get big crowds and healthy gates for marquee games home and away.
One other problem with the current system is that teachers that actually teach a full load of classes are at a disadvantage to the retired coaches, who can sit around and watch film all day.
I’m not smart enough to figure out the mechanics for separating the basketball and football jobs from the rest of the athletic department but the way I envision it goes something like this: Each school has a director of basketball or football and they implement the system across the district. Directors have a staff and get a percentage of the gate to help fund salaries. They might have to fundraise —or the school might have to hire a fundraiser to help them support the product — similar to the collegiate model.
There are multiple ways to get there —some schools have already found the way by creating jobs that are really coach speak for football coach. The point is, it’s time to start thinking about how to get there and stop believing that coaches are in the game to teach.
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