FHC athletics deals with coach turnover


Nine-year head varsity volleyball coach Lauren Heinz is in her first year removed from the team.

“I had a baby [and] that’s a big life-changer,” Heinz said when explaining her decision to resign from coaching. “Now that I’m not coaching, I honestly can say that I don’t know how I would have done it. There’s no way [I could have coached]; I would’ve felt guilty either not putting time into coaching or not putting in time with my daughter. It’s what I had to do for my family at this point in time.”

While Heinz was a loved and appreciated coach, everyone involved in the volleyball program and fellow coaches admire her decision.

“Life shows up and life is bigger than coaching,” FHC Athletic Director Clark Udell said. “[Coaches that resign are] choosing a higher priority. Coach Heinz is a great example [and] a great model to our athletes. No one wanted her to be done coaching, but for her and what matters in her life, yes it was the right time.”

Although consistency is desired in many sports, it seems that lately the only constant has been change. It has become apparent in the last few years that there seems to be an almost continuous turnover of coaches at Forest Hills Central. This 2017-18 school year alone, FHC has at least seven new varsity coaches.

The explanation behind why coaches come and go varies from person to person, from sport to sport, and from team to team. Some coaches leave in less respectable ways, but no matter how a coach goes out, athletes must adapt and overcome the challenge. Whether the old coach was hated or loved and despite feelings about the new coach, the change teaches athletes important lessons.

“A constant in life is change,” Udell said. “I like to look at it in that when there’s a coaching change, it’s a challenge and [we have to choose] how we are going to respond. As athletes we face change every day. We have to adapt and adjust; it’s all perspective and how we’re going to approach it.”

While adapting to new coaching styles and expectations each year is hard on an athlete regardless of level, a coaching change at the varsity level is much more disruptive. This not only affects the varsity team, but the two lower teams because of the varsity coach’s involvement in setting the standards and outlines for the whole program.

“[Coaching changes are] very hard,” Udell said. “How things work change; it’s inconsistent over a period of four years.”

While it may negatively affect the team to get new coaches year after year, in some cases there are so many talented athletes that the termoil becomes irrelevant. For example, the girls varsity soccer team was State Champions in 2005, 2007, and 2008, each year having a different coach.

We have a few long-term coaches at the school; individuals who have dedicated part of their lives and careers to the sport which they coach.

“I love high school athletics simply because I believe you’re developing young men and women when they’re most impressionable,” 13-year varsity wrestling coach Brad Anderson said.

Many coaches agree that being around for an extended period of time is not only an admirable accomplishment, but it also makes things overall easier.

“Absolutely,” 24-year boys varsity basketball coach Ken George said. “I don’t know if that’s right or wrong but my belief is yes; some continuity in the program, not just with the X’s and O’s and what you run, but the approach and the organization also. I think that over the years a program is built, [and] if there’s some success, the continuation of that success is a little bit easier if there’s continuity with the coaching staff.”

Over the years, coaches also have the opportunity to learn, grow, and become better.

“Certainly I’m a much better coach now [than I was when I first started],” George said. “There’s nothing like experience to teach you how to do something. [When coaching for a long time,] you can’t help but have more experience to pull from to help you make decisions.”

Long-time coaches are anything but selfish and it is evident in the commitment they make to coaching. They are in it for their athletes, not themselves.

“The best thing about coaching is when you see a young person that you’ve worked with finally have success,” Anderson said. “It’s seeing that look in their eye, what is commonly referred to as the white light; we only have it a few times in our life. [The white light is] where all the hard work [and] all the training finally clicks and you have that feeling that is indescribable. I love seeing that look in an athlete.”

Anderson, an FHC alumni himself, would coach in no other place than FHC.

“I have not coached anywhere but the great Forest Hills Central [and] would never coach anywhere else,” Anderson said.

This goes to show that despite coach turnover at FHC, the school, athletes, and community are special and irreplaceable. The coaches that have been around long enough to witness just how great the Rangers can be are the ones who realize this.

While it seems especially prevalent at Forest Hills Central, coach turnover is not a problem specific to this high school, but rather a problem with high school sports in general. The benefits of coaching do not outweigh the costs, financially and timewise. However, the successful and long-time coaches are the ones who aren’t in it for the money or glory, but the relationships they build with their athletes and the joy in seeing them succeed.

“We want to find someone who models commitment, passion, and desire to win,a��” Udell said when explaining the process of hiring a new coach at the high school level. “The character of the person is the first piece, and then obviously the skillset to coach plays a part.”

High school coaches are arguably the most influential people in student athletes’ lives. These adults teach athletes not only about the game and about their skills, but about life. Coaches teach morals, values, and character.

Almost all coaches are combinations of the coaches they had in their athletic careers. This in itself is important, seeing as each generation is affecting the generation after it; a coach will influence their players to become coaches in the future, who will then influence the young people they coach. It is an endless cycle that is extremely important to athletics, specifically in the high school setting.

“I think I’m a combination of every coach I’ve ever had, honestly,” said George. “I learned a lot from my dad, maybe not the X’s and O’s but kind of the organization and relational part of coaching; [he taught me about] building people up and helping them play confidently. A lot of the X’s and O’s stuff has been a combination of my high school coach and college coach.”

Anderson was inspired by his coaches as well.

“Ultimately the majority of the important role models I had in my life were coaches and teachers, so if I wanted to make an impact on the next generation of young men and women, teaching and coaching was the best avenue to do that,” Anderson said. “I wanted to make the same impact on the next generation that my role models made on me.”

Coaches will come and go for numerous reasons, and no matter the situation there is always something that can be learned. While multiple new coaches in a high school career can be difficult on an athlete, sports are all about overcoming adversity. It is just another challenge the athletes must overcome in order to move forward.

“[Having many coaches] adds a layer of challenge that’s beyond the game, which can be difficult but maybe in the big picture can be good,” Udell said. “It comes down to perspective [and asking yourself], “Are we going to embrace the challenge of a change or are we going to run from it?a��”