Many high school spring sports coaches still coaching, and getting paid for it
Just as high school classes are continuing via e-learning, so too are spring sports -- well, kind of.
There are no spring state sports tournament series -- the Illinois High School Association reluctantly canceled them last week due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- but area coaches are still coaching. Instead of face-to-face, they are coaching via Zoom practice sessions, virtual workouts, film work and video meetings to keep athletes engaged and busy.
As a result, many suburban districts have elected to pay coaches their usual stipends, even though a traditional spring season has not transpired. Last month, the state board of education suggested coaches be paid their stipends.
The amount varies between districts, with Barrington High School stipends ranging from about $6,000 to $10,000 per season and $3,000 to $11,000 at Glenbard South, for example, depending on whether the coach is an assistant or a head coach.
As of now, there is no plan for how to handle coaching stipends for the fall sports season, if it is also altered by COVID-19, officials said.
"We are following that guidance by the Illinois State Board of Education and continuing to pay our spring coaching stipends," said Glenbard South athletic director Tim Carlson. "It's hard to have your season pulled away from you. But our coaches are doing a great job with our athletes. They are still interacting with our kids; they are still doing workouts with our kids. They are doing whatever they can do to keep the kids engaged."
At Stevenson, girls water polo coach Jeff Wimer has activities planned for his players every day of the week except Sundays.
"It's all voluntary, but our attendance has been great," Wimer said. "We've got 43 girls across all of our levels, and I'd say our average attendance each week is in the 30s. It's pretty awesome to see."
Wimer has his team do Zoom video workouts Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
"And we have one girl host the workout," he said. "The workouts usually last 30 to 40 minutes."
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, players do water polo-specific video workouts, and Wimer has them watch video clips on techniques.
On Saturdays, the players watch game film, and they talk about book passages Wimer assigns.
"We've had them watch video of two NCAA championship games and we've analyzed the defenses that were played," he said. "We also showed them video of when we played in the 2011 and the 2015 state championship, and we talked about the differences in those teams and how we evolved as a program."
Stevenson Athletic Director Trish Betthauser said she thanks the school board and the community for their commitment to the coaches and their stipends.
"So many of these jobs don't start when tryouts start," she said. "Our coaches are doing things all year long with open gyms and professional developments and meetings with their staffs to make sure they are prepared for their seasons."
Betthauser also is organizing a two-week academy in May for the school's assistant coaches so they can be better versed at their jobs during this "new normal" and for when their jobs go back to looking more like they used to.
"We've been wanting to do that for years with our assistants," she said. "There is a lot of turnover in coaching, and we think that if we can offer better training, and coaches have that knowledge, we can keep everyone in their roles for longer."
At Barrington High School, stipends for spring coaches are also being paid as the coaches adjust to their new-look roles.
"I'm happy that the district is paying our coaches," Athletic Director Mike Obsuszt said. "These coaches are doing things year-round to prepare for their seasons, and now, they are doing what they feel is the best way to meet the needs of our kids.
"Early on, they were just checking on their kids, making sure they were OK. Now, they're sending workouts and giving their kids things to work on. They are still trying to be really good mentors to their kids."