The PickrenZONE No. 14

Why Doesn't Johnny Coach Anymore?

By Dave Pickren
The PickrenZONE

August 4, 2000


The news this past summer was a little disturbing from the coaching ranks. The head coach at Wando resigns from the Mt. Pleasant School citing an unjust compensation package as a major reason in his decision. Coach Robert Maddox from Swansea resigns after 12 years and 3 state championships. His reason? He wants to spend more time with his family.

Throughout South Carolina and the nation, coaches are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. In some cases, coaches are leaving the education field completely. In other cases they are taking administrative jobs and are just leaving the sidelines. Whatever the case may be; this is a disturbing trend as many outstanding men are leaving the football field for new challenges. What our state needs most in our schools is strong leadership and good role models. When men in high profile positions such as head football coach are leaving then there is a severe lack of strong role models to help in molding our young peoples lives.

I don't want this to sound like I am blaming the coaches or the schools. I will be the first to admit that I don't have all the answers or if there is even an answer. There is however a problem that needs to be addressed. This may not be as serious as low-test scores but in one way it is. Many of our young people particularly in African American households lack a strong male role model. Many of these same young men are playing high school football and the coaching staff has become a surrogate father in many cases.

How many times have you seen an athlete thank their high school after being drafted in the NFL? Or thank the coach and say without my high school coach I would not be here today. How many young men have stayed in school or worked extra hard in English class to stay eligible for high school football? For many young people the coach is the one person that pushed him to be his very best on and off the field. The coach cared and helped to make sure the athlete was and is successful.

Back in high school there was one coach for me that made all the difference in the world in my life, Coach Tony Dillon. Coach Dillon started at Dorman the same day as I started my freshman year. He was the newly hired boy's soccer coach charged with building a brand new program. During a time in my life when I could not talk to my parents about anything, I could always talk to Coach. He was a friend, a mentor, a leader and a good man. I think I am better person today because of Coach Dillon.

However after 6 years Coach Dillon got tired of the athletic politics, the low pay and the long hours and left coaching and teaching altogether. It is a shame that future athletes at Dorman never had the opportunity to incorporate his lessons of life and did not have the exposure to a great teacher and coach.

But it is a different world today and it is harder and harder for coaches to stay with the job. Think of a typical week for most coaches. Most coaches are up and at school before 7. They teach a full schedule from 8 to 3 and then are on the practice field until 6 or 7 at night. Throw in a coaches meeting, break down a little film, and clean up the dirty uniforms and it is 10 or 11 o'clock before you head home only to do it again the next day. Then comes game day and Friday night.

On Friday you once again teach all day until 3 PM, gather for a team meal and another game at 8. If you are on the road then add a bus ride. The game ends at 10:30. Back to the field house to watch the game tape, do a radio interview and start the laundry. It may be 3 or 4 in the morning before the coach makes it home after a 20-hour workday. The weekend brings more laundry, more game film, and a game plan to develop for the next week. By the end of October you are running on pure reflex and looking forward to seeing the family once again come Christmas.

This year Robert Maddox decided to leave coaching and spend more time with his family. The Swansea family cried but I am willing to bet the Maddox family will be smiling come Friday night. Coach Maddox told me once that he wanted to watch HIS children grow up and not someone else's. Now when his daughter has her first dance recital or his son has his first peewee football game, you can bet that Robert will be in the front row cheering loud. No one faults Maddox for wanting to spend more time with his family, perhaps we all should follow his lead, but the young men of Swansea will be less because Coach Maddox is no longer there.

Usually this is the stage of my articles where I offer a smart aleck answer or a quick wit.

I have neither here.

The only thing I can say is remember the dedication and effort of every coach involved in making Friday night happen. The next time your team is behind and you fell like screaming obscenities at the coach, take a moment to reflect on the time the coach takes to make these young men better citizens in addition to making them better players.

When I was a 22 years old student graduating from college, I contemplated entering the coaching ranks. A coaching friend of mine shared with me these words; " The pay is non existent, the hours long, the work frustrating and oftentimes you are completely unappreciated but I can't imagine doing anything else and I would not trade one moment for the world.

I choose a different career path that offered more pay and better hours but at this time of year I always question my decision and wonder what life would be like if I was coaching.

Coaches are special breed who toll in relative obscurity, with little pay or glory they do it for the love of the game and the love of the young men. All I can say is ....................

Thank You.

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