‘A Concern That I Have’: New Canaan High School Sees Drop in Teacher-Coaches

Just 37 percent of the total athletics coaching positions at New Canaan High School are filled by Board of Education staff—a figure that has dropped off in recent years though it would benefit the district to see it higher, officials say.

Out of 106 coaching positions, 39 are filled by district staff, a number that represents 29 unique coaches, as some of them coach multiple sports, according to NCHS Athletic Director Jay Egan.

A closer look at the numbers shows that just 21 of those unique coaches are teachers, Egan told Board of Ed members at their most recent meeting.

“So that means almost 20 percent of the coaches are teachers,” Egan said at the June 18 meeting, held in the Wagner Room at NCHS.

“Now, 15 years ago that was a much different model. The teacher-coach was a very common model. That is not as common of a model right now, which means there are a lot of different things that we have to think about with respect to hiring coaches and retaining coaches and so forth.”

The comments came following presentation by Egan on New Canaan High School athletics, including an overview on coaching certification, a soon-to-launch sports contests streaming system and spotlights on coaches, championships and sports participation rates among students. 

Egan noted that NCHS field hockey coach Kelly Marks is a member of the U.S.A. Field Hockey Team, girls volleyball coach Kevin Marino is director of volleyball at Chelsea Piers, that boys ice hockey coach Clarke Jones is director of coaching at the New Canaan Winter Club, boys soccer coach Luke Green is director of coaching for the New Canaan Football Club and that girls lacrosse coach Kristin Woods was named 2018 CHSCA Class L Coach of the Year and CIAC Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year. 

Board of Ed Chair Dionna Carlson said it’s “sad to see the teacher-coach model sort of going away.”

“I think there are so many positive things that come from teacher-coaches,” she said. “I don’t know, maybe it’s just the generation and we can’t do much about it. Have we looked at possible ways to encourage more teacher-coaches?”

Referring to a state requirement that coaches who are not already certified teachers after a one-year temporary coaching certification must take a 45-hour course for standard certification (as well as CPR, First Aid and concussion management), Carlson added: “I just think that absent the credentialing part of it, I think there is just so much training that teachers get that a 45-hour course is never going to touch upon with kids.”

Egan agreed, saying teachers bring a unique strength to coaching positions in the “ability to understand teaching and learning.” Egan said he and New Canaan Public School Director of Human Resources Gary Kass are in constant communication when a new teacher is hired that has a sports background. 

“That is obviously the ideal circumstance, I have reached out to them with all the openings, I have reached out to them—the entire staff—many times throughout the summer, making it clear to them … that we would like to hire teachers,” he said. “And I think they would like to do it, sometimes we talk about it and then I kind of think it is a practical problem for them. I mean, transportation in Fairfield County is a problem for everybody that lives here. I am not saying we are defeated by it.”

Egan said he is concerned about the decrease in teacher-coaches for NCHS sports, noting that “there are high standards for coaches in this community.”

“I just wanted to voice that as a concern that I have going forward,” he said.

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