This is the seventh article in the series, “The State of Education in Utah Valley.” All stories can be found here.
Just about every year, high schools have teaching positions open up. They also have coaching positions that become available.
The circumstances sometimes work out to create an opportunity to take care of two needs at once.
“We want the best teachers in the classroom for kids and we want the best coaches on the field for kids,” Lehi High School principal Doug Webb said. “Sometimes, it works together where we have a teaching position and a coach who is a great teacher and a great coach. Sometimes, we have teaching positions that we don’t have coaches applying for. Sometimes, we don’t have teaching positions but we have a coaching position. It’s all over the place to make that work.”
Webb explained that getting the right candidate for a position is the highest priority.
“If we have an English position, for instance, we will be hiring the best English teacher,” he said. “That will be posted as an English teaching position with coaching experience and we will see what applicants we have.”
Other times, a school will be looking for a head coach but not have a teaching opening.
“We will see what applicants we get and then evaluate it,” Webb said. “Everyone wants the best but there is a balance in how we take care of our extracurricular activities.”
Fidel Montero, principal at Timpview High School, said the relationship between the teacher-coaches and the student-athletes is slightly different.
“We have wonderful coaches who don’t work here at the school,” Montero said. “My observation has been that when a coach is working at the school, they are able to create a synergy with their team because they see the kids and I think that dynamic is healthy.”
Those who do both teaching and coaching have a better perspective of how things work at the school, Webb said.
“The value of having someone on staff is that they understand guidelines and rules and procedures,” Webb said. “They are here working with kids during the day. That’s a great thing. A lot of coaches who are teachers are extremely passionate about helping kids. They’re wanting to help students in the classroom and they are wanting to help students in extracurricular activities. Those people make your program better.”
There is a downside, however, when results and expectations either in the classroom or in the competitive arena aren’t met.
“It can be a tension we face because when we hire teachers, we hire them with the expectation of being in the classroom,” Montero said. “When you hire someone who is a teacher and a coach, you have these dual expectations of their performance in both areas.”
He said different school districts handle that prospect differently, with some establishing from the beginning that if a coach decides to not coach, they also give up their teaching position.
“We have high expectations for all teachers and advisers and coaches,” Montero said. “It starts with treating kids well and having safe environments.”
Having teaching openings also provides opportunities that might impact the health and safety of the student-athletes. Springville athletic trainer Lisa Walker hopes schools that don’t already have an athletic trainer on staff as a teacher consider looking that direction.
“That helps to solve some of these problems,” Walker said. “I don’t know of any school who has filled a teaching position with an athletic trainer, but do I believe that they should? Yes. It’s one thing they could do but I don’t think they think to do it.”
Many Utah Valley schools already have athletic trainers who teach at the schools, which provides some big benefits.
“With having an athletic trainer on the ground and at the school, they get to know the kids so much better,” Montero said. “It’s a very demanding job. They put in a lot of hours because they are taking care of all of the athletes.”
The current reality for all of the high schools is that whether looking for teachers, athletic trainers or coaches, the main goal remains to find the individuals who can handle the responsibilities and do what is best for the students. Time available is always going to be a factor.
“It’s difficult sometimes to find coaches,” Webb said. “One of the challenges is that there is a lot of time invested. If you are not on staff, finding someone who has the flexibility in their career to come to practices and travel and organize everything can be a challenge. There are probably a lot of great coaches who would like to coach but it just doesn’t fit in their schedules and what they have going on.”
He added that there isn’t even a consistent pattern as far as what coaching jobs are in highest demand, saying that it often just depends on the situation.