Cycle of new coaches affects teams’ spirit and play

By Emily Wang, Circulation Editor

Every few years, the coaching staff of CHS sports changes. In fact, many athletes on teams have seen at least two coaches come and go during their time on a CHS team.

“When I first joined the team it was [former swim coach Brendan] Roddy’s first year as well, and now [math teacher Chris] Tappis will be coaching the team for my last year here,” senior swim team captain Elaina Gu said. “Over the course of four years I would have two different high school coaches.”

Coaching high school sports is, in some ways, a thankless job; the pay is low and the hours are long. Yet, they do it because they are passionate for the sport and love working with athletes. Nevertheless, coaches are often forced to pass the job on after a few years as situations change.

“The hours required to coach at the high school level can be challenging and some people either leave coaching or choose to coach in a different environment like clubs, private schools or youth organizations,” athletic director Scott Rivinius said.

According to MCPS regulations, coaches have one-year contracts, which may be a cause of the high turnover rate in the CHS coaching staff. Furthermore, when a teacher becomes the head of his respective department, he is no longer allowed to coach. However, a resource teacher will be allowed to fill the position when they cannot find a coach.

“Roddy was the coach my freshmen year because Van Tassell got promoted to be a resource teacher for the Social Studies department,” Gu said.

When selecting coaches, staff members get first priority for coaching positions because it is a union position. Regardless of where the coaches are from, they are all qualified, according to Rivinus.

“Prior to Churchill, I coached recreational, high school and all-star cheer in North Carolina,” said Jennifer Clark, CHS’s new varsity cheer coach. “I am also a former cheerleader.”

In general, junior varsity coaches seem to have a higher turnover rate than those of varsity coaches, possibly because varsity coaches are more experienced. Baseball alone has seen two new JV coaches in the past two years.

“Many of our varsity coaches have held the positions for five years or more,” Rivinius said.

Coaches have personal lives too; they have careers outside coaching and family. Thus, they often have to put their coaching aside to focus on other aspects of their lives.

According to former swim coach Brendan Roddy, who gave up his position as a coach in order to become the art department resource teacher, it was a tough decision to make since he loves coaching and getting to work with students outside of the classroom, but he knew it was beneficial to his career.

While some sports only have a new coach every few years, varsity cheer has had a new coach every year for the last four years. Three years ago, Brandi Richardson, now assistant school administrator for the Class of 2016, was the coach, but she had to relinquish her position in order to become assistant school administrator. A year later it was parent of former CHS student Leslie Blalock, Lynn Blalock, then health and gym teacher Margo Hopkins. This year, Jennifer Clark, an assistant teacher at Whitman, is the coach.

“The biggest challenge for me coming into the new varsity position was the team getting accustomed to my coaching style,” Clark said.

For students, adjusting to new coaches can be difficult as they have to get used to the new coaching philosophy, style, practice, rules and expectations.

“It’s hard to continue tradition, but at the same time, it allows us to see difference coaching styles,” cheer senior Ryann Siegel said. “Every year we gain new strengths.”

According to Gu, Roddy did a “really great job” his first year coaching when Gu was a freshman and “things got better as each year went by.”

Hiring new coaches every few years can be both a blessing and a curse; it can provide new opportunities for the team to bond and reinvent themselves, but it could weaken a team as well.

“Change isn’t necessarily bad, but frequent turnover for a program can be challenging for athletes,” Rivinius said.