By R. Alan Richardson sports editor
In future editions, I would like to throw out (sometimes vent) some ideas for the average fan to digest. Don’t get me wrong, I love fans (most of them) and realize how integral a part of the game they are. This piece is aimed at helping all fans appreciate what coaches do and why they do it. Some of you might ask why I feel I am in a position to write on the subject or what makes me an expert in this field. Well, 31 years of teaching and coaching several different sports at multiple public schools across the state as well as a stint this year coaching basketball at Piedmont Academy should give me some credibility on this subject. Let’s start with the average day in the life of a coach. It doesn’t matter if he or she is a football, basketball, softball, or cheerleading coach. Most of these people begin the day at about 5:00-5:30 am feeding children, carting them off to school, and getting prepared for the long hours ahead. That’s not much different from the average Joe. Many of these coaches arrive at school well before the first bell rings at 8:00 to prepare for the arduous class load they have.
The majority of coaches are not PE teachers, but labor in the areas of science, math, social studies, and English. Some will have three or four different types of classes that they will teach during the day that includes lesson plans, multimedia presentations, preparing the necessary notes and other items for those classes, as well as lecturing on the subject. That subject matter took them four years of college (in my case, five) to earn a degree along with continued ongoing curriculum updates and taking classes outside the classroom to earn an upper-level degree such as a Master’s. The school day ends around 3:00 for most schools, but the coach’s tasks are only halfway completed at that point. Many sports will have weight lifting activities, gymnastics practice, film sessions with players, and/or study hall before the two hour practice actually begins. I will give you one example at Morgan County during basketball season. Jamond Sims and his varsity boys do not begin practice until 6:00 each evening. He is the last guy to leave after he sweeps the floor and turns out the lights, usually around 8:30.
Those same coaches who just spent 12 or more hours at the school now must rush home to families just to get a minute with the little ones before they are put down for the night, grab a little supper, and then spend time grading papers or taking care of the nightmarish paperwork trail. Oh, by the way, that trail today is nearly impossible for coaches and teachers to contend with at times. Here’s another scenario. Basketball teams in January and February are playing three games per week (Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday) so that means more time traveling to and from games as well as less time for family and teaching preparation. Don’t forget about the offseason workouts, camps, weight room workouts, and individual workouts to name a few. Coaching today is a 24/7/365 day job. Not to mention that people like John Robbins, Brett Bell, Merritt Ainslie, and others coach multiple sports.
So, why do coaches do what they do? Here’s my humble and accurate opinion on the topic and there are a number of them I will delve into. I guess coaches do what they do for the money, right? Don’t even go there. I do know a few football coaches around the state who are also athletic directors who make well into the six figures at elite football schools. That’s certainly not the case for young coaches or coaches of the so-called minor sports. A coach’s salary comes from his teaching salary. No one could survive on the lowest levels of what a coach earns from his coaching supplement. Why do coaches really do what they do? First and foremost, coaches have a burning desire to teach the sport that they love to young men and women. If that passion is not there, they won’t last. I’ve seen it too often. Secondly, they enjoy working with and making an impact on young people’s lives. Many times they don’t even know how they’ve changed a life until years later. Lately my life has been touched by comments sent to me via Facebook, text, and e-mail from young men and women I coached and taught (now in their 40’s) of an incident that made an impact on them. You never know. Another reason coaches do what they do is that they love the competition.
There’s nothing quite like Friday night lights at Morgan County High School, a state championship run in softball, or a state championship in basketball to get the fire going in a coach’s belly. Here’s the advice I would give the average Friday night quarterback in the stands. This is not college or professional football. What coaches are expected to do is get the most out of their talent, teach young men about character and sportsmanship, be a father figure in some cases, and win a few along the way. I have actually had parents complain to me about a coach at church! Many of the coaches at MCHS are lifelong friends who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. There is a fraternity among coaches that brings them together because they know how difficult their job is. Please don’t ever bring up a complaint about a Morgan County High School coach around me. They are sacrificing and doing the best they know how for your children and I will do everything I know how to support them and be positive for every program we offer. Parents and fans, before you start complaining, maybe you should follow that coach around for several days to get a better appreciation for why coaches do what they do. Imagine leaving your eight hour day job to spend another four to eight more hours on your second job that doesn’t pay enough in some cases to fill up a thimble.
There are a lot of wonderful, supportive parents out there, but it’s always the loud complainers that get to me the most. Most of them couldn’t draw up 15 running plays and how to block it against three different defenses (especially the complicated schemes employed today) if their lives depended on it. I once had an irate Mom screaming at me after a game in which her son did not get to play, “I don’t know how you can sleep at night!” My response, “I wish you would come follow me around for three weeks and you’d see why I sleep very well every night.” To those parents and coaches who have to listen to this same group, I apologize because I know why coaches do what they do! It’s a labor of love.