Teachable moments: Nearly half of District 833 coaches also teach in local classroomsAccording to area activities directors, when it comes to coaching, teaching doesn’t need to be one’s profession, but it does need to be a way of life.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
According to area activities directors, when it comes to coaching, teaching doesn’t need to be one’s profession, but it does need to be a way of life.
Among south Washington County’s three public high schools, there are almost exactly as many head coaches who are teachers as coaches that are not.
Currently, of the 82 head coaches between East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high schools, 38 are teachers in District 833 and 44 are not teachers in the district.
All three District 833 activity directors said they search for the best coaching candidate possible no matter their profession, but being a teacher is helpful in being hired as a coach.
“I want to find the best combination of knowledge of the sport as well as the ability to convey that knowledge to a student in an appropriate fashion,” Woodbury activities director Jason Schultz said. “I want someone who is experienced coaching, experienced in the activity that they are coaching and, then, if we can get them in the building that’s even better.”
Schultz is in his first year at Woodbury High School after being in the same position for the previous three years at Chippewa Falls High School in Wisconsin.
“If you have two candidates and if all things are equal, if one is a teacher and one is not, if everything else is the same, I would have no problem taking the teacher, because they are going to be connected to the building and have opportunities to see the students throughout the day, not just at practice,” Schultz said. “But, I don’t know if being a teacher makes a person a better coach. I think, in some circumstances, sure it does. But, not always.”
According to Schultz, Woodbury High School has 25 head coaches — 12 are teachers in District 833, 13 are not. East Ridge, according to activities director Trent Hanson, has 27 head coaches with eight being teachers in District 833 and 19 that are not. At Park, according to activities director Phil Kuemmel, out of the 30 head coaches, 18 are teachers in District 833 and 12 are not.
Hanson said when hiring coaches, being a teacher is “certainly a factor we consider.”
“The primary objective is to get the best candidate and the best fit for our district and our East Ridge philosophy,” Hanson said. “It’s a natural consideration for an applicant, for sure.”
Kuemmel said in a “tie” between coaching candidates, a teacher would have an edge.
“Let’s say we do have a tie,” Kuemmel said. “Sure, the teacher will get a little bump in their favor and the tie might go to the teacher. But, we’re not looking for just teachers or just non-teachers. We just want the best candidate.”
Kuemmel said a benefit of hiring a teacher as a coach, however, is the teacher’s availability to the student-athletes they mentor.
“About half our coaches are teachers and half are not and both can be great, great coaches,” Kuemmel said. “I’ve witnessed it first-hand, if a kid has an issue or whatever at school, the coaches are right there with them. The relationships all coaches have with these kids is so great, they have a connection and are there to help them.”
Schultz said, when assessing candidates, he wants a coach that “gets the big picture — that extra-curricular activities are an extension of the school day.”
“We, obviously, compete to win, but we are also here to teach life skills,” Schultz said. “I view that job as probably more important to winning games, however you have to do both if you want to be able to coach for a while.”
No matter what the candidates’ day job is, Kuemmel said he likes to hire coaches that bring an “educational-based philosophy” to coaching.
“We have a lot of coaches like this, but Steve Morse is one of them with the girls hockey team. He is probably the most like a teacher in the way he views things and his philosophy to coaching — that’s what we look for in all of our coaches. We are not here to win at all costs. We are not a college program. Yes, we want successful teams and competitive teams, but that’s not all we are looking for. We are looking for coaches that will teach life lessons and produce quality citizens.”
Coaches earn roughly $1,000 to $5,000 a season
Each of the three District 833 public high schools have very similar procedures when hiring coaches.
In most cases, the school’s principal and activities director review applicants’ resumes and try to reduce the number of candidates to five or fewer. At that point, an interview committee is formed, usually consisting of — in addition to the school principal and the activities director — a parent or booster club member, a current coach at the school and a representative from the area’s athletic association.
Of the candidates interviewed, the committee will narrow it down to its top two or three choices. Everyone on the committee must feel comfortable with any of the candidates for him or her to be considered further. After making calls to check references, the activities director and principal make the final decision.
In total, Schultz said it is roughly a six- to eight-week process to hire a coach.
But, what are activities directors looking for in candidates?
“We, obviously, want coaches that know the sport, but a big thing is relating to the kids,” Kuemmel said. “A big reason why we have an interview committee is because it’s not just coaching a team anymore. You have to be able to work with the booster club, the athletic association and the building administration.”
Hanson said he feels some people outside of the coaching profession may not fully understand how difficult the vocation truly is and how the demands on the position have evolved over the past 20-25 years.
“The time pressure, the community and parent pressure, the specialization of the year-round effect — there are definitely variables that have made it more difficult,” Hanson said. “Identifying candidates is not always an exact science, but that being said, the common denominator of the people we have brought in is that they are committed to the art and the science of coaching are incredibly passionate about the kids.”
According to Schultz, coaches generally make between $1,000 and $5,000 per season as a salary. The salary does vary on the sport and the coach’s experience.
“Considering most coaches are working year-round, none of them are doing it for the money,” Schultz said. “If we broke it down hourly, it would be pretty small. It’s a labor of love. We try to compensate as best as we can and as fairly as possible. But, anyone who coaches knows they’re not doing it for the money — especially at this level.”
If it isn’t very lucrative financially, why do coaches do it?
“For all our coaches I think it’s the end result to produce quality citizens and make a difference in kids’ lives,” Kuemmel said. “They spend hours and hours and hours just with the hope that by the time a kid leaves high school, they can say they had a positive experience and that they left a better person than when they came in here.”