Prep coaches in the Roaring Fork Valley don’t do it for money |

Prep coaches in the Roaring Fork Valley don’t do it for money

Joelle Milholm and Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Finding and keeping coaches is no easy task in all sports, at every level. It seems to be even more difficult for area high schools, however.

This area’s high cost of living, its dearth of affordable housing and the availability of teaching positions all factor in to schools struggling to find coaching stability.

Sometimes, even when a coach takes a job at a high school, he or she doesn’t stay for more than a few years. It can be for any number of reasons ” like retirement, change of vocation or relocation.

The Roaring Fork football program, which had three different coaches from 2004 to 2007 and will be getting a new one next season, is a perfect example. Tory Jensen changed jobs, Matt Hauptly went to law school and Mike Brinson wasn’t surviving financially, needing to devote more time to his photography business.

“Once [coaches] truly understand how expensive it is to afford to live in this area, it can sink in on them,” said Larry Black, Roaring Fork’s athletic director. “They want the position so badly, they’ll sacrifice and do the job for two to three years. Then they’ll finally come to the realization, ‘Gosh, this is more difficult than I ever imagined.’ It’s one of the reason we have so many coaches not in our building, that are community members.”

Many schools, including Coal Ridge, have similar stories to Roaring Fork.

Coal Ridge’s golf coach Scott Zevin had to step down to take the assistant principal job and other longtime coaches, like Glenwood’s Joe Mollica or Rifle’s Jack Smith, decided to retire after long distinguished careers.

Another challenge is the nationwide evolution of the coaching position.

Work is no longer limited to head varsity coaches’ respective seasons. Coaches are now saddled with year-round, program-building responsibilities. Finding someone with the time to hold camps or voluntary practices in the offseason, and who’s also a teacher ” and that’s what most schools aim for first ” is difficult.

“Coaching is so time consuming,” said Glenwood Springs Athletic Director Steve Cable. “It is a 24-7, 365-days-a-year commitment. It is not just three months. I look at those older coaches who coached for 30 years like (Bob) Chavez and (Harlem) Spencer and they coached during the season and then it was over. Now, it’s all year.”

Expectations are also very high and the atmosphere in high school sports has escalated.

“Overall, all around the country high school sports have gotten much more intense,” said Rifle Principal and former assistant football coach Todd Ellis.

With all the time coaches put into their teams, the compensation doesn’t even come close to adding up.

Payment for head varsity coaches varies from district to district, from sport to sport, and also depends on experience level. The lowest on the first-year scale is $1,400 a year for a golf or cross country coach in the Garfield School District No. 16, while the highest amount is $4,090 for a football coach in the Garfield School District No. Re-2.

That’s nowhere near enough to live or eat, rendering coaching to avocation status. All non-teaching coach candidates must be armed with a steady income and a strong desire to coach.

“Nobody is going to come out here just to coach for $2,500. If it is a teacher, that helps with supplemental income, but that’s not why they do it,” said Cable, who’s been AD at Glenwood for nine years and is a Glenwood High graduate. “They do it because they love the game and love the kids. When you break it down, it’s about $1 an hour.”

At Rifle High School, former girls basketball coach Jack Smith and current coach Brad Skinner have been forced out of retirement to come back and coach because the school can’t find a replacement. Ellis said the Bears had less than 10 applicants for the position.

“Then when you look at the cost of living, most won’t even consider it,” he said

Grand Valley is probably the most fortunate when it comes to athletic stability. The Cardinals have managed to keep most head coaches aboard in the face of Western Colorado’s skyrocketing cost of living.

AD Jeff Bradley is in his eighth year at that post and 15th as the school’s head baseball coach, boys basketball head coach Scott Kiburis is in his eighth year and Mike Johnson just wrapped his eighth year as head football coach and ninth year as girls basketball head coach.

“I really think that success breeds success,” Bradley said. “To me, as the AD, I still think we can be more stable because of those two positions [that have changed recently ” volleyball and track]. Scott Carpenter stayed in the [volleyball] program, he just stepped down, so that helps.”

ADs at neighboring schools are no doubt a little envious.

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