High schools want coaches who work in the building, but it's … – NorthJersey.com

When Mahwah athletic director Roger Pelletier started working in the district as an athletic trainer 27 years ago, most of the school’s coaches were also teachers in the building.
“When I got started, an established coach or athletic director would tell you where help was needed and would sometimes even assign you to coach a team,” said Pelletier, the T-Birds’ athletic director for the last 16 years. “It’s much different now. It’s become so competitive as more time is being invested in sports.”
Athletic directors across North Jersey say they’re struggling to find qualified coaches for their teams. And they’re especially struggling to find in-house teachers and in-district employees to coach their student-athletes.
They say a variety of factors are contributing to this issue.
“Being a coach requires time and dedication,” River Dell athletic director Denis Nelson said. “When teachers look at the limited pay structure and the amount of time that needs to be dedicated, it sometimes doesn’t make sense for them to take on a coaching position.
“There’s other reasons why we’re seeing more coaches and applicants that do not work in the district. For one, there’s not enough of (coaches) out there. A lot of coaches are also teachers and we’re seeing a teacher shortage that continues to get worse.”
As applications for open coaching positions have dwindled in recent years, schools are turning more often to coaches who work outside the school district. In some cases, the coaches being hired don’t even work in the education field.
Part of the reason is that balancing the dual role as a teacher and coach comes with challenges. It’s not uncommon for teacher-coaches to work 15 hours a day during the season, with not much additional compensation.
“Coaching today is a bigger commitment than what it used to be. It’s more than a 2:30-6:30 p.m. commitment. For some sports, it’s a year-round job,” Lakeland athletic director John Yost said. “When you break down the amount of time put into coaching and compare it to the pay, it doesn’t add up to much.”
Pro Sports:‘Wake me up in London’: Inside look at the Giants’ overseas trip for game vs. Packers
When a coach doesn’t work in the building, it sets up some inherent disadvantages. Because the coach doesn’t have access to the students during the school day, it’s tougher to build relationships with players. It’s also tougher to recruit new players out of the hallways.
Newton football coach Matt Parzero, whose team is 5-0 so far this season, has experienced this scenario from both sides. When he was hired as the Newton football coach in March 2016, he was teaching at North Warren. It wasn’t until 2018 that he was hired at Newton as a health and physical education teacher. He also had a similar experience a decade earlier when he started coaching at North Warren while teaching at Lenape Valley.
“There’s definitely a benefit for a coach to work and be in the same building as his student-athletes. That coach has a pulse of the school, students, and community,” Parzero said. “I’m involved and active on a daily basis and I’m able to monitor my kids’ grades and academic progress. I’m available to them throughout the day.
“When I wasn’t teaching at Newton, there would be times when I would get to practice late or the kids would be already dressed, out of the locker room and on the field. I would get information and updates about my athletes after the fact. I would love all my coaches to be in the same building with the kids.”
Mountain Lakes football coach Darrell Fusco began working in the school district and as an assistant coach in 1997. Since taking over as the head coach in 2010, he’s led the Herd to 99 wins entering Friday’s game against Whippany Park. He said he can’t imagine coaching without working in the building.
“I believe the reason we’re successful as an athletic department and specifically a football program, is because we have consistency. The coaches know each other and they work well together,” Fusco said. “Presence is a positive. I see the kids and I’m there for them. There’s a lot I can monitor. If I weren’t in the same building, I’d feel like I’m missing something.”


Leave a Comment