The Hot Corner: Small print creates big problems

Here's a hypothetical situation for you. If it doesn't make you dizzy, it might turn your stomach.

Say that one of the most coveted high school basketball coaching positions in the tri-county area opened up.

We'll pretend that the person in the hot seat decided to swap it for a chair that carries fewer demands and less scrutiny. Fair enough? Hey, it happens in this stressful day and age.

And let's say just for the sake of argument that this vacancy is almost an annual event ... perhaps for reasons that should become apparent as we draw out this, um, hypothetical scenario.

Let's theorize that a proven leader of young men and women — the active, available coach with the most extensive championship resume in the state — expressed his interest in that position.

Heck, we're piling it on thick, here. How about we make it a homecoming? Just for giggles, imagine that the guy had a fabled past at the school. Received a hero's departure.

Never burned a bridge, either. In fact, if there were a bridge longer than a dump truck in this one-stoplight town, they would have named it after the dude.

Short of John Wooden coming back from the dead or Phil Jackson bringing his zen mastery to the Maine foothills in his semi-retirement, our protagonist would be the clear-cut, no-doubt, are-you-kidding-me choice for the job.

Other hypothetical schools within a hypothetical hour's drive would be dizzy with glee if this guy showed up on their doorstep. In fact, at least one extended a just-in-case phone call to him during the same offseason, fingers crossed in prayer to the hoop gods.

Oh, since it's our hypothesis, let's include the support of his predecessor, the enthusiasm of prospective players, and the fervent backing of any parent or community member in possession of two brain cells to rub together.

Easy hire, right?

Post the job. Conduct a couple of perfunctory interviews. You know, due diligence. But then put the reunion in writing and make room in the trophy case for one hypothetical Gold Ball. Maybe two.

It sounds simple because it should be. In the real world, in a sport starved for qualified candidates, such a gift from the heavens should have been hired yesterday.

But our wacky world is run by power-hungry, special-interest groups and officious, suit-wearing types who are governed by small print and sweetheart deals instead of logic.

School districts, even those with phenomenally successful athletic programs, often are led by good people with a stack of degrees on their desk.

Problem is, their idea of physical exertion is bending over once a day to tie their shoes. If the hands that would perform that task aren't tied to strings, pulled to and fro by a school board or a union.

And just imagine that one such union — I know, stop me when this sounds ridiculous — had a clause in its contract prohibiting a non-employee of the district from taking a coaching position if even one teacher were interested in that job. 

Now wrap your brain around the possibility of a superintendent actually seeking out teachers in an inexplicable effort to stonewall the outsider. That's right: No matter how much less experienced or qualified those teachers might be.

OK, you've got me. This isn't a hypothesis. It's a real situation being played out in our backyard, involving a school, a community and at least two coaches, all of whom I respect deeply.

Names have been changed — withheld, actually, for now — to protect the innocent out of respect for their privacy.

Multiple sources tell matching details, however. And those details stink out loud.

Forget what's best for the kids. Let's cater to the teachers. The educational process is all about them, after all.

(Hypothetical sarcasm, there, in case you missed it.)

The arrogance and elitism of such a policy is laughable.

It's as if the teachers of this district have banded together to say that we, and only we, are educated, qualified and mature enough to coach your precious progeny. The inherent suggestion is that it's impossible for a mere commoner to be a superior coach.

And they wonder why more families are turning to AAU alternatives instead of state-sanctioned sports; or homeschooling, instead of the classroom.

Trust me when I say that the coach in question could dig ditches, wash windows or flip burgers for a living and be the best man for the job.

The school in question ought to be tripping over itself to create the highest-paid custodial position in America, thereby making this fellow eligible.

Ridiculous suggestion? Well, it matches the policy.

What scares me most is the possibility that other teachers' groups will see this ill-conceived legalese and decide that it's a nice fit for the back pages of their next contract.

When one or two schools are bound by such asinine restrictions, it cheats their own kids. That's bad enough.

If every RSU in the state followed suit, it would be the death of high school sports as we know it. Because not every teacher wants to be a coach, or is even qualified to be one.

It would eliminate one-third to one-half of what already is a shallow pool of candidates.

Subvarsity teams would shrivel up. Programs would disappear.

And that, my friends, is one hypothesis we don't need to test.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is koakes@sunjournal.com.

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Donald Hebert's picture

hmmm

makes ya think

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