Raises In Stipends For High School Coaches Is a Must Or Else NC Will Pay a Bigger Price

Whether you realize it or not, school started this past Monday, July 31st.

whistle

Many a student, many a sponsor, and many a coach went back to public school campuses to start official practices for sanctioned and unsanctioned fall sports and other worthwhile activities like marching band, cheerleading, color guard, dance teams, etc.

The list goes on and on.

If every coach actually divided his/her stipend for fulfilling his/her role by the actual number of hours spent in preparing, practicing, and community outreach, the per-hour recompense would make 1983’s minimum wage appear like the lottery.

And then you see news reports like this:

“Wake County athletic and academic coaches could find out as soon as today if planned raises will be nixed this year to help close a budget gap.

Wake school administrators had previously listed the $2.6 million in raises for extra-duty pay as among the options that the school board could use to close a $28.8 million budget gap. At Tuesday’s work session, staff will ask for the board’s feedback on what adjustments to make to the budget.

[Wake school budget cuts might delay raises for coaches, halt plans to hire counselors]

The school district has to cut $28.8 million from its $1.6 billion operating budget after getting less than what it wanted from the Wake County Board of Commissioners and to cope with changes in state funding.”

That’s from T. Keung Hui’s piece in the August 1st edition of the News & Observer entitled “Wake County athletic coaches may lose raises due to budget gap” (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/wake-ed-blog/article164628912.html).

Mr. Hui is a fantastic reporter and he knows the Wake County educational terrain like no one else.

That budget shortfall that he is referring to was catalyzed by the underfunding for public schools by the state lawmakers in the very same county (Wake/Raleigh) and local politicians. In a political climate that embraces “funding” public schools and brags about a state surplus, the fact that this is happening is egregious.

Coaching and sponsoring are not undertaken by teachers and community volunteers to make money or get rich. People do these things to give back to the school and more importantly help students. But to deny coaches and sponsors the raises needed to at least keep some sort of pace with the cost of living and expending their own resources is ludicrous.

One of the most highly revered baseball coaches in North Carolina public school history actually told me that he did the math and as a coach he made less than a dollar and hour. I never heard him complain about that, but he always tried to make sure that his assistant coaches were as well taken care of as possible. They were younger and were starting families.

Most every sports program or large extracurricular activity (like band) teaches students skills and values that cannot be measured by dollars. They also keep students out of trouble and strengthen communities.

Furthermore, one might be surprised by how much revenue sports can generate for a school program or a school system as places like Forsyth County require county schools that play each other in several sports split the gate proceeds evenly. That’s generating money for a school system. And it isn’t going into a savings account.

Furthermore, every sport usually has to do its own fundraising. Do you even want to think of how much money is needed to outfit an entire band and help secure instruments? Go ask schools, but don’t ask lawmakers who squabble over funding. They probably will not know.

Go to a successful athletics program in any traditional high school (and by successful, I do not mean wins versus losses) or a driven band program, and you will see coaches and parents and community volunteers spearheading some of the most successful fundraising efforts ever conceived. They are also making sure that students are performing in the classroom as well.

Despite what government is “helping” them do.

Yes, there are some high-profile programs that do pay coaches large supplements from booster club revenue and that is a choice made by individual schools, but it is the exception and not the norm. And that supplemental money comes through individual school fundraising.

Maybe every lawmaker in Raleigh or every county commissioner should spend time volunteering as a coach for a high school sports team or band and get some sort of idea of what it is like to keep a program running. What we see under Friday Night Lights is only a fraction of what is done for these students and communities.

Maybe also have every lawmaker be an officer in a booster club or PTSA of a local high school and see what kinds of obstacles are in place that are overcome each and every year to make things possible for school students.

I know of one particular school board member in my district who was and her understanding of how finances in schools work is more than admirable. She also happens to be a former teacher.

Then maybe there would not be “budget shortfalls” like there are today.

Or news reports like the one mentioned earlier.

Actually, School Starts In One Week

Sure. Most people here in North Carolina might think of the beginning of the school year as being closer to the end of August, but it actually begins much earlier.

Well before students will begin roaming the halls to re-acclimate themselves to a bell schedule, teachers will report to school for “pre-planning,” which is a series of days to get prepared for the new school year.

Academically that is.

If you are a coach of a fall sport, then your year officially starts much earlier – July 31st to be exact as that is the first day of practice allowed for fall sports in North Carolina.

july-31-2017

To be exact, that means:

  • Cheerleading
  • Cross Country
  • Dance Team
  • Field Hockey
  • Football
  • Men’s Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Women’s Golf
  • Women’s Tennis
  • and the activity that has the longest season – Band.

Many actual games will be played before the first day of school and while that may seem a little odd to some people, it is quite necessary because of the school calendar placed in motion by the state and the county system.

If you follow the banter that surrounds public schools, many believe that teachers have this extended summer “off” to do anything they may want. But get to know a coach for any high school sport who tries to help build exceptional teams and you will probably meet someone who spends quite a bit of time in summer getting teams prepared. That includes all of the camps, workouts, and fundraisers that almost all teams (fall, winter, and spring) and activities must do to have the necessary funds just to function.

Because the state sure isn’t helping with its emphasis on less spending. Just look at the “Pay to Play” systems being used in some school systems to help with costs (http://www.journalnow.com/sports/pay-to-play-system-not-being-considered-in-forsyth-davie/article_6671d31c-747c-54b1-b95f-5030f480c6f1.html).

Consider:

  • Athletic fields don’t magically stayed manicured.
  • Equipment doesn’t magically come ready to be used.
  • Papers and eligibility forms don’t magically complete and file themselves.
  • The weather doesn’t magically cooperate.

Yet there are a lot of good people who “work” in the summers who are ten-month employees on paper, but they will allow school to start in August with a sense of cohesiveness and purpose.

Why?

Because the stands will be filled before the classrooms will.

Drink plenty of water and go to the games. School starts in a week.

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to North Carolina High School Athletic Association -You’re Not in it For the Kids

I sent this letter this past week to every member of the Board of Directors for the NCHSAA. It concerns events that occurred last weekend during the 4A softball state championship series. 

I never received an answer or an acknowledgment.

It is a long letter, but it does not cover all that happened. Nor does it cover other instances in which the NCHSAA has not acted according to its mission statement or its creed. 

I urge you to read and share if you are a high school athletic fan. Out student/athletes deserve more.

 

Dear Board of Directors of NCHSAA,

The following is a letter regarding events seen and experienced last weekend in Raleigh during the 4A softball championship series between West Forsyth High School and Cape Fear High School. It would be very much appreciated that this be read as it reflects upon all of us in public education.

If anyone peruses the official website of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (www.nchsaa.org) and investigates the “About” page, he/she would see a “Mission Statement”, “Vision”, and set of “Core Values and Beliefs” that stress sportsmanship and a focus on student athletes. However, the actions that I not only witnessed but experienced from NCHSAA this past weekend while traveling with the West Forsyth Titan softball team to its championship series in Raleigh were in total contradiction to the very guiding principles that supposedly direct the NCHSAA’s actions.  In short, I am amazed at the events that took place.

On Friday, June 3rd, our team was scheduled to play against Cape Fear High School in the first game in a best of three series. Weather delayed and eventually postponed the game in the top of the first inning. When play resumed in the afternoon of the 4th, many of the people who attended Friday’s game were allowed back in with tickets previously sold except those who had entered with a state coach’s pass the night before. No one at the NCHSAA had the foresight to remember that many of the representative schools’ administrative and athletic personnel were allowed in Friday night on their official passes. They were not allowed into Saturday’s game at first. They had to wait with new patrons who had come Saturday to the games for the first time. In some cases, these coaches still bought a ticket to at least be guaranteed admission. That same lack of helpfulness could be witnessed when people on the VIP list, especially the wives of the coaches themselves, were not allowed in the gate on Saturday until much commotion had to be made.

Furthermore, there were no programs left for any of the West Forsyth fans to purchase to keep as a remembrance of a state championship series. Not a single West Forsyth parent or fan was able to have a memento that should have been available. They were all sold during the first game between North Stanley and Princeton High Schools. With the potential for six different games, to run out of programs before the first game is concluded is ludicrous. It was symptomatic of the absence of preparation on the part of NCHSAA, an omen for the rest of the weekend.

Toward the end of the first game won by West Forsyth, it was announced that tickets for the second game would cost $12 dollars instead of the $8 dollar charge of the first game. Apparently, the price would also cover the cost of the third game if it was needed.

This seems quite strange and a totally outright maneuver for profit. On one hand, the NCHSAA is guaranteeing itself a higher share of profits by allowing one game to potentially cost more to attend than another because the series may not have had a third game. On the other hand, it would force ticket holders to come another day to a neutral site, which for the West Forsyth team supporters was at least a two-hour drive each way. I myself was unable to come Sunday, but I had to “buy” a ticket for that game anyway.  That alone seems to violate the NCHSAA’s core values of “Integrity” and “Honesty”.

But what was even more egregious was what happened Saturday night at the start of the second game.

After paying the $12 ticket fee, fans awaiting the first pitch were told to exit the stadium because of lightning strikes and a thunderstorm warning. As the weather finally subsided a while later, I along with many other West Forsyth supporters witnessed the Cape Fear bus (a Cumberland County Activity bus) leave the premises. None of us were aware that any game had been cancelled. The weather map on most anyone’s smartphone app indicated that no more severe weather was in the vicinity. Approaching the gate to inquire, we were told that there was a conference to ascertain if the game would resume.  But it would be hard to presume that it would be played; one of the teams had already left.

The game was canceled. Why? There exist differing opinions, but it was known that the West Forsyth team was ready to play and that the field would have been readied by the NC State crew quickly and effectively. It seemed that one team was able to force the decision based on its own volition rather than a consensus. The fact that Cape Fear only has one pitcher was well-known.  She lost the first game. She would have had to pitch again that night unless the game was called.

And it was called when Ms. Tucker received news that the other team had left. Our coaches, principal, and athletic directors were stunned and confused by the whole process.

An account of what happened Saturday night in the June 5th edition of the Winston-Salem Journal stated,

“The storm came upon us pretty quickly,” Tucker said. “Every time we were getting lightning we were delaying for 30 minutes. The last time we got one it pushed us to not even being able to clear to allow anybody back (in the stadium) until about 8:40.

“And of course as we were looking at the weather apps that everybody has, we could see that there was weather behind us,” she said.

Tucker said it was solely her decision.

“It was one of those tough calls you have to make. I made it, and we live with it,” she said.

Either Ms. Tucker has a faulty weather app or some supernatural power all of a sudden changed the direction of the offending weather without her knowledge, but there was no more severe weather in that area for the remainder of the evening. In fact, it was reported that a baseball game on the NC State campus was even played at the same time that the softball game could have been played.

Even more questionable is that many of the West fans who were waiting a decision on whether to play the game had actually witnessed the Cape Fear bus leave. Why would they have had information about cancellation and not the coaches and players from West Forsyth? If Ms. Tucker was the only one who had made the decision, then why was one team allowed to be privy to that information and not the team that traveled twice as far not be told anything? Does that not violate the “Fair Play”, “Equity”, and “Fair Competition” core values of the NCHSAA?

And was anyone who remained at the gate awaiting some explanation of whether the game would be played or not given any recourse or explanation about a refund? No. There was only an announcement over the PA inside of the very stadium we were not allowed to enter made by an announcer who could not be understood.  No one from the NCHSAA made any attempt to explain to any fans what was happening. There was no ticket stub with information on it given to the attendees, just a wristband. Ms. Tucker was nowhere to be seen. Other NCHSAA “employees” seemed confused and were not helpful.

So, our West Forsyth softball team had to spend another night in Raleigh costing not only the school thousands of dollars to accommodate them, but the families who had to stay as well.  Supposedly, the Cape Fear team spent the night in their homes in Cumberland County having already gotten there because of their head start from the NC State campus and their relatively short distance to travel compared to West Forsyth.

Fortunately, Sunday’s weather held. West Forsyth won in dramatic fashion. That can never be replaced. But as the team was traveling back to Clemmons with seven seniors having missed a chance to attend their Baccalaureate service and all team members having to ready themselves for exams the next day at school, I could not help to think that this could have been avoided if there was a steadfast adherence to the core value of the “Development of Student-Athletes” that states, “Participation in athletics should aid in the physiological and psychological development of the student-athlete.”

Ms. Que Tucker and the NCHSAA supposedly abide by a mission statement that seeks to “provide governance and leadership for interscholastic athletic programs that support and enrich the educational experience of students.” But that is not what I witnessed this past weekend.

Nor was that mission statement practiced when West Forsyth’s girls’ soccer team defeated Charlotte Catholic on a Monday and was forced to play a state semifinal game the next night in Charlotte. We petitioned for a day of rest for our players to recover both physically and academically because exams were starting soon. According to reports, Ms. Tucker was more concerned with following a puritan adherence to protocol than the safety and health of our soccer team. Ironic, that that same rigid devotion to protocol was completely absent on Saturday night at that softball series.

What I have observed this past weekend was a total lack of leadership and a loose interpretation of policy. Our young ladies and coaches persevered despite of that and in doing so “enriched our experience” as parents, family members, teachers, administrators, and supporters of West Forsyth. Those young ladies and their coaches reflected the very core values of the NCHSAA that Ms. Tucker and others in Raleigh failed to do.

That makes them champions on and off the field.