Their absence will be felt deeply
I try never to write negative. There is so much positive about high school sports and only so much space available, it is better to write about the good things.
But enough has happened recently that I was prepared to make an exception (the first version of this column reflected much more anger). You can see some of that frustration on display on page 9A. But Jeff Kaufmann (see related story on 1B) put me a little back in my place. Don't get me wrong, I am incensed with some of what has happened recently. And it has done nothing to refute my long-time feelings that there are only two types of people on school boards: those with a power streak with selfish desires and those pure of heart who don't believe the first group really have bad intentions. But I digress.
If teaching is the most noble profession, than coaching is for zealots. Why give so much of yourself for so little in return? If you have coached a team without your kid on it then you know why.
This column is written for more than those named in it. It is for the athletic directors and coaches who give so much. And it is for those who had their hearts broken because of politics.
Paul Moses has been the Olmsted Falls athletic director for the past 13 years. During his tenure, The Bulldogs won 45 SWC championships, multiple sectional/district championships, have seen a couple of final four teams and won a state football championship. And they didn't do it with "dumb jocks" either. The athletic teams throughout his tenure have a combined 3.1 grade point average. He founded a program called "Character through Sports." The athletic department taught about more than just winning. There were anti-steroid and supplements information on display and nutritional information and education addressed for specific sports. Without the use of school funds, a new stadium was embarked upon through the Alumni Association. The school has unrivaled community support and the community's youth programs continue to foster under the direction of the school's head coaches and the community center. And no student has ever had to pay to play at Olmsted Falls.
Paul was informed by the Superintendent Todd Hoadley that the school district is going in a different direction and he would no longer be the athletic director. Paul was told that they had a difference of philosophy. Hoadley won't say anything else other than he made his reasons clear to Paul. It is hard to imagine what different philosophy someone could want other than what Paul has stood for and delivered at Olmsted Falls. If someone has any complaints about what Paul has done during his tenure, they have not expressed them to me. In the coming weeks, we will find out if a certain rumor is true on who the new athletic director will be. If it becomes true you will read about it here.
In contrast, Tom Faska has been the athletic director at Fairview for just one year. Tom lost his job because of the massive budget cuts the Fairview school system has implemented. On one hand, it is hard to argue against sports cuts when 25 percent of the districts teachers lost their job. But it is still disturbing. Besides having no athletic director, the retiring sports secretary is also not being replaced. Tom's duties will be shifted to the assistant principal. And with no offense to someone who I am sure is very capable in his current job, you wonder if his secretary knows she is becoming in essence the new athletic director. A school with the size of Fairview's sports programs can't function properly without detailed direction.
And the year started with such promise for the district. The new facilities from the passed Gemini project looked to be a godsend and a possible attraction to the city for families. Now I wonder why someone would choose to send their kids to Fairview. Many of the district's great young, enthusiastic teachers lost their jobs. Every program lost at least one assistant coach and some two. Many of the teachers who lost their jobs were coaches so their losses are a double whammy. The ones I know best are Eric Smith, Mark Tomecko and Jeff Kaufmann. The money saved in salaries can't come close to what will be lost in the classroom and in the locker room. This year a few Fairview Park residents competed for state titles for other schools. That is going to happen more and more. And they won't be leaving because of athletics but academics.
The worse part about Tom leaving is that while he was still working for the Berea school system, he was the chairman of the committee that got Gemini passed. He took the job as AD because he believed in the school and he wanted to watch his sons compete for the Warriors. This year he had a triple bypass and was still back to work in seven weeks. Now Tom is looking to fill 20 plus coaching positions with the gusto as if he will be back. He is a better man than I. And I wonder what kind of coach would accept a job for that program. Kaufmann filled me in on that answer. And it rips my guts out, that he is now headed for North Olmsted.
In my column on page 9A, I talk about Scott Sharp resigning as Bay basketball coach.
Scott is a very good coach and in my eyes, a stand-up guy with true class and character. He got every ounce he could have out of his team this year. All you could have asked for was one more basket or stop in a playoff game. For the last two years, Scott has been the one coach that I knew every week whether he won or lost, would send me an email where he found something positive to share about his student-athletes. Many coaches send emails when they win, Scott was classy and promoted his kids regardless. He also talked to every reporter at every game no matter the score and he did it the same classy way each time. Not every coach is like that.
Bay is a town filled with secrets, one of the worst kept is what coaches at the high school have to put up from those outside of the school. Someone from outside the district told me that "those coaches at Bay are nuts to put up with what they do." Whether that is truth or perception, is that how a school district wants to be viewed? The amazing thing is Sharp is not alone in his character. From top to bottom, Bay has great, dedicated coaches. But one wonders if history keeps repeating itself, how long will that last?
Now while quotes or non-quotes say other-wise, I am fairly confident I know what really happened to Scott Sharp. And like everyone else with the scoop, it makes me sick. But what has happened there is happening more frequently in school districts everywhere. Parents and board members (often a combination) everywhere now feel as if they have the right to impose themselves into coaching decisions. The list is long of every local coach hung out to dry. As one coach told me, "I was let go after a losing season. But when you hear parents complain about another coach who has won for over a decade, you wonder what will happen the first year he doesn't win. Coaches in our district saw what happened to me and now are scared it could happen to them."
I was even told that one local school board member used removing a local coach as one of his issues in his campaign. I pray that is urban legend, but if it isn't what world do we live in?
As I prepared for the end of the year special issue, I sent every athletic director a survey of six questions. One of those questions was what story did I miss this year? One said I got all of the sports stories, but maybe I should write about parents starting to cross the line with their actions and behaviors. So I am, but I need your help. Athletes, coaches, parents and fans send me your stories. What is going on in high school sports? Are parents placing undue and unfair pressure on coaches? Have politics replaced common sense? Has passion for your own kid surpassed the needs of the greater good? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (440) 871-2214 option 1. I will not follow up or take seriously any phone calls without a name and number. We can talk off-record, and I can quote you anonymously if you want, but I need to know who you are.