Athletic department scrambles to find coaches

Max Karp, Ethan Leifman

Numerous Wilson sports teams were in disarray last week, as coaching positions for many teams were left unfilled with the beginning of the spring season quickly approaching. Though all coaching positions except for tennis have since been filled, the spring season is starting with a degree of uncertainty for many sports teams. Both Wilson lacrosse teams have received coaches in only the past week.
Wilson Athletic Director Mitch Gore says this year has been difficult for finding coaches, noting how many coaches have left since last year. “We’re really close to finalizing a tennis coach, hopefully by the end of this week,” Gore said.

“We try to find people in the building, which is our first choice because they’re already connected to the community and they know the students. But we advertised in the school since January,” said Gore, who added that both lacrosse coaches this year are coming from outside the school community.

“We had a lot of openings, and again, the stipends are not a lot. So that’s why, if somebody’s already in the building [it’s best] because they know the students and the sport,” Gore remarked.

Athletic Coordinator Nadira Ricks seconds Gore’s claims, noting that it’s very hard to find willing coaches. “The stipend is very low, and you can be putting in two hours a day, five days a week,” Ricks said. “We wear different hats as coaches: we also have to be mentors, making sure these kids keep themselves occupied.”

Ricks notes that Wilson’s athletic department focuses on finding coaches who can wear several different hats—coach, teacher, mentor, even parent—and that finding someone who has just played the sport is often not enough. “People who do this, don’t do this for the money. They do it because they want to do it,” she said. The salaries for coaching vary from sport to sport, with football coaches earning the highest salary; no Wilson coach makes more than $8,000 per season. “Some assistant coaches who work 10 hours a week may only get paid $1,000 for a season,” said Ricks. “We just don’t have the money.”
Of course, Ricks notes, there are plenty of opportunities to coach high-school athletes and get paid more. Wilson has a history of losing coaches to private schools—in the past three years, two of Wilson’s P.E. teachers (Sal Caccavale and Desmond Dunham) left for St. John’s College High School to coach their soccer and track programs, respectively. The salary of the head football coaching job for St. John’s College is around $55,000, close to the starting salary for a DCPS teacher.

The girls lacrosse team has experienced routine struggles finding coaching staff, with their new coach, Jacqueline Cook, only being hired on February 26. “It’s hard because people don’t respect authority without a coach there,” said junior Erin Hollar, a player on the team.

“Our coach last year had a baby. Two years ago, our varsity coach was great, and we had a varsity coach and a JV coach. And last year, the varsity coach couldn’t come,” explained junior Grace Kowal on the team’s coaching history.

“And coach Gore never found a second coach, so we had the JV coach from three years ago. And we were able to find a coach way at the end of the season off of Craigslist. My dad posted an ad on Craigslist and within two days somebody responded.” Kowal said.
“Technically, Gore was supposed to be the JV girls coach, but he went to one of their games,” senior Ella Cain said.

As is often typical with girls sports, the girls lacrosse team feels that the boys team has been given priority. “It’s just kind of unfair how [the boys team’s] coach quit and within weeks they were able to find a replacement, but ours left last season and we weren’t able to find one for a while,” junior lacrosse player Maisie Arlotto said.

Despite its struggles, Gore says one truth remains about Wilson athletics: “Nobody who’s coaching at the high-school level is doing it for the money. They do it because they love the sport and they love teaching it and they love sharing that with the teenagers.”