The hidden side of high-school sports: dealing with coaches

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                </div>  It’s amazing when you stop to consider the dedication of coaches to the high-school game.  For head coaches, it’s long hours, lots of paperwork, the diplomacy that is required […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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It’s amazing when you stop to consider the dedication of coaches to the high-school game.  For head coaches, it’s long hours, lots of paperwork, the diplomacy that is required for dealing with parents – and it all breaks down to about 30 cents an hour when you consider games, practice time, and work in the off-season.

High-school coaches definitely aren’t in it for the money.  Almost all of them have to carry full-time jobs as well.  I know that from many years of personal experience.

But the questionable way school administrators and parents often treat their coaches continues to be a regularly recurring mystery.

There are plenty of examples of how coaches are often fired without justification, with complete disregard for the interest of the players.  Too often it’s about wins and losses, and winning championships, instead of what’s best for the kids.  Through the years, we’ve posted a number of examples in past articles on phxfan.

Now, we’re reminded of the issue once again with the sudden announcements of the departure of three different coaches in just the past two weeks – and all, it would seem, for different reasons.  But in at least two cases, the coaches would rather still be in their jobs.

And in every case, there are questions that still linger.

According to a report on the AIA website, Rick Sharp is the most recent casualty.  Sharp has coached a number of different sports during his career and is a familiar figure on the high-school sports landscape, but his most notable tenure has been at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High School where he started the school’s softball program almost 20 years ago and has been the head coach ever since.

His dedication to the sport is apparent in the highly-respected invitational tournament he began and has run for the past 17 years.  And year-in, year-out he has posted winning seasons, taking his teams into the playoffs 16 of his 18 seasons at the school.

Sharp is still wondering what happened.  He says the school hasn’t made it clear to him why, after years of top evaluations, the administration suddenly decided they no longer required his services.  His notice arrived Friday.

His dismissal came just a week after Gary Cook resigned as the Shadow Mountain High School head football coach.  But this time, it was the coach making the decision – but for very disappointing reasons.

According to media reports, Cook wasn’t getting the commitment needed from his players to make the program competitive.  Next season would have been his third year running the program, which has been struggling for years.  Mike Giovando posted the last winning season (6-5) back in 2010 and Cook went 5-5 in his first year after replacing Giovando, who also lasted just two years.

But the team finished 3-7 this past season and, by the end of spring practice, Cook could see the writing on the wall.  His players apparently weren’t buying into what he was selling.

The reasons are clear as to why both Sharp and Cook are no longer in the game.  But Jared Woodruff gave no reason for his decision to resign last week as the head football coach at Bradshaw Mountain High School in Prescott.

And the really puzzling part of the decision drew immediate questions, since he was winning and had just taken over the job.

Woodruff had accepted the coaching job just last season – and turned around a program that had gone 3-8 the year before, posting a 7-4 overall record and winning the Division III, Section 4 championship.  The program hadn’t made it into the playoffs since 2010.

Woodruff’s released statement gave no clue as to the motivation for his resignation, which wasn’t turned in until after spring practice.  That might indicate the same kind of frustration Cook experienced in preparing for a new season.  It could also be a sign of frustration that comes with parental interference.

That’s the problem when a resignation isn’t accompanied by a reason.  Speculation runs wild.

But Woodruff’s written statement gave no indication: “I have respectfully resigned my position as head football coach and physical education teacher, effective immediately.  On the football field, I believe that we made great strides in competitiveness and football skills.”

According to reports in The Daily Courier newspaper, David Moran will take over as interim coach for the 2014 season.  The 37-year-old Moran, who played at Bradshaw Mountain and later at Oregon State and Northern Arizona, is the fourth different head coach in four years.

Moran told the Prescott newspaper: “My plan is to get on the football field with these kids and start building a foundation in this program.  As a coaching staff, we want to develop some trust between our athletes and coaching staff.”

Maybe Moran hit on a key issue  here.  That element of trust is hard to establish, not just between coaches and their players, but among coaches, administrators, and parents when there isn’t enough transparency and openness.

Even when the truth is ugly, it’s often best to air it out.