TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Sept. 7, 2015 — Labor and service

The bumper stickers are omnipresent, and their message is unmistakable:

“If you can read this, thank a teacher.”

Teaching was, and is, a fine profession through which young lives can be altered and shaped towards a greater good.

That greater good can be not only in terms of academic achievement, but achievement on the field of play.

In most school districts across the United States, your high-school coach — even for high-profile activities such as football and boys’ basketball — is not a hired hand, but a faculty member who serves within the school district, teaching anything from history and chemistry to health and physical education.

It’s the latter which, regrettably, has sunken to just about zero in terms of what is taught at U.S. colleges. Very few universities in the United States have a physical education requirement, or even a physical education department. It is one of those quaint notions — like the presence of a junior varsity — which have gone by the wayside in today’s world.

In days gone by, for example, John Wooden wasn’t just known as a basketball coach, or the legendary “Wizard of Westwood” who won 10 NCAA men’s basketball titles when the tournament was a de facto Tournament of Champions. He was an English teacher at UCLA.

Teachers today, in many parts of the U.S., are under economic and political siege. Taxpayers don’t want to pay more for quality education in the public schools; heck, many are opting out for homeschooling even though there are alternatives for education.

And more than one of the major Presidential candidates for next year’s election has made it a habit of excoriating schoolteachers and the U.S. public education system.

It’s a system which has now started having trouble finding qualified teachers. And, by extension, qualified coaches.

I’ve seen too many instances over the last quarter-century of being around high-school sports where coaches have had to be found at the last minute, receive a lowly stipend for the 10 weeks of the season, then the coach is replaced the next season. No continuity, no offseason training, no ingrained love for the sport: just a warm body to supervise the kids after school.

That’s sometimes how I felt playing varsity basketball at my old high school. I had been psyched to play for the two coaches who headed the team until I got there, only to learn that their jobs at the local grocery store would no longer allow them to coach. Our second practice, the gym teacher was pressed into service as the head coach. We didn’t have the kinds of set offense I was used to, instead relying on improvisation, which was not my strength.

My experience made me appreciated the long years of service of coaches in field hockey and lacrosse that I have come across the last decade and a half on this site. This fall, Kathleen “Cookie” Bromage of Enfield (Conn.) will enter her 49th season as coach. Barb Major of Lawrence Notre Dame (N.J.) will coach her 48th season. Cheryl Poore of Chatham Monomoy (Mass.) will enter her 47th season.

And here’s an interesting tidbit. There are currently eight members of the 600-win club in scholastic field hockey. All eight of them coached during the 2013 season. 

Friends, that’s dedication and service towards the sport of field hockey.

We may never see that again.

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