Athletic director struggles to find and keep good long-term coaches

October 28, 2019 — by Harshini Velchamy & Tiffany Wang

Some sports teams on campus have succeeded under the steady guidance of longtime coaches. Other teams seem to have new coaches every year and struggle to find lasting leadership.

Trying to find coaches is one of the toughest parts of the job of athletic director Tim Lugo, especially for less traditional sports such as field hockey, lacrosse, water polo and badminton.

Because the popularity of these sports in the West Coast is more recent, and many of the players who played in high school are barely out of college, finding people to coach them is a daunting task.

 Usually in his search, he first browses various databases of different sports clubs around the area, trying to find anyone who may be interested in and qualified for the job. Oftentimes, parents or players on the team spread the word and they discover an interested coach through word of mouth. For some sports, such as golf, tennis and volleyball, girls’ and boys’ teams compete during different seasons, which means that the school only needs to hire a single coach.

However, there are plenty of challenges that come with hiring any coaches, Lugo said. The schedule that most schools follow can be inconvenient for coaches, especially if they’re already working a standard day job that keeps them at the office until 4 or 5 p.m. 

Most of the time, Lugo first reaches out to teachers at the school who have experience in the sport and asks if they are willing to coach. Among the teacher-coaches in recent years have been Mike Davey for softball, Bret Yeilding for football, Kirk Abe for wrestling, Kristen Thomson for swimming, Yuko Aoki for tennis, Rick Ellis for track, Melissa Hesselgrave for girls’ water polo and Danny Wallace for girls’ basketball.

As a varsity coach, Wallace is an example of an ideal fit for Lugo. By being on campus, Wallace is a constant fixture in his players academic and athletic pursuits. 

There are numerous benefits to having a teacher as a coach; for example, on-campus coaches have the benefit of being able to conduct practices immediately after school ends, whereas off-campus coaches may have prior conflicts that make scheduling difficult. 

The communication between the coach and the players is also much stronger since it’s more convenient for both parties to discuss any issues in person, leading to a much more powerful relationship.

“You get to know who [the coaches] are,” Wallace said. “You see them in the classroom and see them at activities.”

 On-campus coaches have the same mindset as when they are teaching; they want what’s best for the students. However, off-campus coaches might be motivated by money or other outside factors. 

“In the end, on-campus coaches have the same mindset and feelings as a teacher,” Wallace said. “You’re a teacher because you care about the kids, you want the kids to grow up and do their best.”