Blogger's note: Received a couple request from Observer-Reporter readers to post my column from Thursday's edition.
One day after being hired as Carmichaels High School football coach, John Menhart spoke of the high quality and quantity of applicants the opening attracted.
And Menhart, the Mikes’ coach for 14 solid seasons through 2002, should know. He’s the principal.
“You wouldn’t believe the people we heard from,” Menhart said back in mid-June. “It says a lot about what people think of Carmichaels. This is a place where people want to coach.”
These days, not many other places are on that list. Coaching high school sports in tradition-rich and sports-crazed areas like Western Pennsylvania has become increasingly difficult.
A few meddlesome parents spend more time whining about playing time and questioning the coaching staff’s abilities as than they do developing the talents of their children. Hey, how hard can it be to coach when that parent led these kids to some tournament championship back when they were in fifth grade?
From parents to apathetic athletic directors to school board members with agendas to anonymous and unwarranted criticism on the Internet, coaching is hard. Heck, it’s becoming nearly impossible.
In light of recent events, one must wonder why anyone would want to forge into a high school coaching career. With the exception of Carmichaels, where coaches hang around for decades more often than not, it’s far more trouble than it’s worth.
Take the recent action by the Peters Township School Board and the circumstances surrounding opening the varsity softball coach’s position previously held, and with a certain degree of success, by Bea Rhodes.
Following the 2009 season, one in which a previously moribund program qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the fourth time in five years, Rhodes received approval for the 2010 season by athletic director Rich Relich and principal Dr. Thomas Hajzus.
That’s usually all it takes for the school board to approve the hiring.
Not in Rhodes’ case.
In an unusual move, a group of players’ parents met with superintendent Dr. Nina Zetty to discuss issues concerning Rhodes’ handling of the team. Most of the information Rhodes received came from second-hand sources.
“There weren’t any real specifics to let me go,” Rhodes said. “They said I was calling games off too late. Just crazy things that had nothing to do with the team. The funny thing is I never had much of a problem with the players.”
That’s not where most of the problems come from, at least not for high school coaches.
They come from parents, some determined to take any action to garner more playing time or recognition, whether deserved or not. One thing to keep in mind: Postseason awards such as the Observer-Reporter’s annual softball all-star team – with two Peters Township players on this year’s first team and three others on honorable mention – are not determined by coaches.
Those sure seem like frivolous reasons to oust a successful, respected coach.
“I have a pretty good relationship with the coaches and umps around the area,” Rhodes said. “And I have a great reputation. I demand my teams be respected and well-behaved. That’s something that others noticed about Peters Township softball.”
Too bad that wasn’t enough for a coach who took Peters Township to the WPIAL semifinals, an unthinkable achievement 10 years prior, in 2007.
Then again, it’s coming from a district with a growing reputation for being difficult on coaches.
So, who’s next? Whether it’s in Greene County or Washington County, bet it won’t take long to find out.