IAAA NewsletterIAAA Newsletter - Spring 2009
Economics Impact School Coaching Selections
It's often difficult for school systems to hire new coaches


Nat Newell

Indianapolis Star
Sara Strahm speaks Spanish. While that may not give her an edge on the court, it was a vital factor when she was hired recently to coach girls basketball at Pike High School.

The struggling economy has made it more difficult for area athletic directors to fill coaching vacancies. Fewer teachers are leaving their jobs and many that are won't be replaced, leaving fewer positions for new coaches to fill. Some athletic directors also have seen a drop in applicants as candidates are concerned about switching school districts and surrendering their seniority.

Strahm was the first choice of Pike's screening committee, according to district athletic director James Perkins, but her certification to teach English as a Second Language classes might have made her the only possibility among the four finalists.

"When school districts are struggling (financially), it's hard to bring someone (new) in," Perkins said. "When it's not as tight, in most school districts, you can look to add a staff person in an area (to hire) a football or basketball coach. (But) if you've laid someone off in social studies, how do you bring in (a new coach) in social studies?"

Athletic directors have had to eliminate candidates because they weren't licensed for the few teaching openings at the school; put the hiring process on hold in hopes a position opens; limit their candidates to assistants already at the school; or consider hiring coaches who aren't teachers.

Though no athletic director contacted was concerned about having to hire an unqualified coach, the economic realities shrink the pool schools can choose from and may keep them from hiring the best candidate.

"The school board was sympathetic, but they can't open (our boys basketball coaching position) to any and all (teaching) areas," Greenfield-Central athletic director Kevin Horrigan said. "If that does affect the quality and quantity (of candidates), that's the way it has to be. We'll hire the best of what's left."

Even when a school finds a coach able to fill one of its few teaching openings, the economy can still be a factor. Decatur Central athletic director Doug Opel believes the first candidate offered his program's football position turned it down because of concerns about whether the candidate's wife would be able to find a new job.

New Palestine is not anticipating any teaching positions opening at the school and has delayed the hiring of a football coach. None of the current assistants are interested in taking over the program, leaving athletic director Mike Huey hoping to hire a teacher at another school.

Schools can hire basketball and football coaches who are not members of their faculty if the candidate has a teaching license. If a coach is not a certified teacher, a school can appeal to the Indiana High School Athletic Association for a one-year waiver. However, schools want their coaches to have educational backgrounds and be available to their students during the day.

"Some of your best coaching is done before school, in the lunchroom or the hallway," Huey said. "Coaches, especially in those major sports, need to be in the building. It makes it more difficult for the kids and for that coach. It's not a very good option, but it's the only option a lot of schools have.

"The kids are the concern because the sport's for them."

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