John F. Russell :Coaches always in public eye
April 3, 2004
They pace the sidelines at football games, have a hard time taking a seat at the end of the bench during basketball games and spend hours studying the sports they teach.
They are considered heroes by fans when their teams are winning, but are often the first to shoulder criticism when those teams are losing.
They are coaches.
These days, it doesn’t matter if the coach is in charge of your favorite professional team or the middle school basketball squad — the coach often is in the public eye.
Professional coaches such as the Bronco’s Mike Shanahan and the Nugget’s Jeff Bzdelik get paid big bucks to lead their teams to victory.
In return, they often are bombarded by criticism and are surrounded by the knowledge that their jobs are in constant jeopardy.
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It’s sad, but Bzdelik could be looking for a new job next year after leading the Nuggets to the threshold of the playoffs for the first time in recent memory. But close isn’t good enough these days.
High school coaches don’t get the big paychecks, but that doesn’t protect them, either.
There are times when I wonder why any person would want to coach a high school team?
But every time a position opens at the high school, the number and quality of the applicants is surprisingly good.
This year, the winds of change have swept through the hallways of Steamboat Springs High School taking with them coaches such as Mark Drake, John Smith and Ryan Barclay.
The school already has filled two of three open coaching slots for next fall, including the head football slot, with top-notch replacements.
These teachers no longer will watch the game from the safety of the sidelines but will step into the line of fire.
Not only will they be expected to teach the game, pass along life lessons and build character; they also will be expected to win.
The new coaches also must deal with the legacies of their predecessors and the lofty expectations of the players, the parents and the fans.
I would like to think that the coaches are not going to be judged by their win-loss records or their team’s performance in the first year. But let’s be truthful.
It used to be that winning in high school sports was secondary and that sports were a place to learn teamwork and the skills of a game.
But our society has changed.
In today’s world, high school sports are battling many of the same pressures facing professional and college teams where winning is all that matters.
I’m hoping that the coaches who come onboard in Steamboat next year will prove me wrong.
I hope they not only win but carry on a tradition of teaching our children what really matters in our community.