Strasburg sees spike in coaching vacancies this summer

Athletic directors at the six local public high schools have been busy filling out their coaching staffs for the upcoming school year, but none have been busier than Strasburg High School’s Matt Hiserman.

The Strasburg AD said Tuesday night the school could turn over up to 20 coaches between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, a dramatic increase from the usual three to five the school has experienced during Hiserman’s tenure. Hiserman noted that about 13 coaching positions remained unfilled as of Tuesday night, though a majority of those openings are for assistant coaching positions, including “a couple” football assistant spots, a varsity cross country assistant and middle school cross country coach in the fall athletic season, “some basketball jobs” in the winter and as many as eight or nine coaching vacancies in the spring.

Strasburg recently filled varsity head coaching positions for boys basketball, golf and cheerleading, Hiserman said. Officially, the school’s only remaining head coaching vacancy is varsity track and field, although Hiserman didn’t rule out the possibility of having “a couple” more head coaching vacancies to fill for spring sports.

Strasburg High School’s rapid increase in coaching turnover comes in the wake of an investigation into an incident of student misconduct on a school bus carrying members of the school’s varsity and junior varsity boys basketball teams after an away game last December. The investigation, which generated controversy throughout the community, led to the suspension of the second half of Strasburg’s boys basketball season, student suspensions and expulsions and the termination of several coaching contracts.

Hiserman, who had served as Strasburg’s boys basketball coach for the last three years, said it was unclear to him if the high coaching turnover is a direct result of fallout from the incident, and added that many coaches left for teaching jobs elsewhere.

“We didn’t have a big end of the year coaching meeting, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to a bunch of them at the end of the year,” Hiserman said. “But like I said, a lot of them – I’d have to go through and count up – but a lot of the people who left the system are (going) elsewhere.

“I don’t know what those reasons were for them leaving the school system and taking a teaching job elsewhere,” he said.

Hiserman added that he is concerned about his ability to fill all of the vacant coaching positions before each sport’s respective season. In years past, he said, the school had been able to fill one or two open coaching positions with qualified teachers in the Shenandoah County school system or capable members of the community.

“But when you’re filling as many as we need to fill and we’ve filled most all of our teaching positions, it gets a little worrying whether or not you’ll be able to find enough coaches to fill those spots going into … the season,” Hiserman said.

Strasburg isn’t alone in having an above-average number of coaching positions left to fill. Central High School saw eight positions open up, a number athletic director Kenny Rinker said he considered “a little bit out of the norm.” Central has already hired Alyssa Bane as the new varsity volleyball coach, but the school still needs varsity head coaches for both sideline and competition cheer, girls tennis, softball and boys basketball, a position left vacant following the recent resignation of Brandon Shields, who was charged in early June with failure to report child abuse or neglect in connection with a juvenile sex case.

Rinker said Tuesday that three of those five vacant varsity positions, and possibly a fourth, likely will be filled within the next week.

Rinker attributed the high coaching turnover this year to the increasing reliance on using people who work outside of the Shenandoah County Public Schools system to fill those roles.

“These people, their lives change, so when that changes the coaching no longer becomes a priority, and I understand that,” said Rinker, who noted that some teachers likely don’t want to deal with the “hassle” that accompanies high school coaching.

Rinker added that high school coaches in Shenandoah County are not paid enough for their extracurricular work. According to Stonewall Jackson High School athletic director Todd Fannin, coaches in Shenandoah County, on average, are paid the equivalent of 20 to 30 cents per hour.

“I think we’re behind other school systems when it comes to compensating our coaches,” Rinker said. “And again … it’s not about the money. If that’s why they’re there it’s for the wrong reason, but they don’t get paid enough.”

All three Shenandoah County athletic directors denied that coaching high school sports in the county school system has become harder as a result of the incident at Strasburg. However, Rinker said coaches are “being asked to do more when it comes to the area of supervision,” and student-athletes are no longer allowed to be left unsupervised in school buildings or playing fields, he added.

“I think it’s a big adjustment for our coaches, and our coaches were always supervising,” Hiserman said. “I think for those up here, there was maybe a fear for some coaches, you know, you’re worried about your teaching career and if something happens, you know, who’s gonna be to blame for that?”

Fannin said Stonewall Jackson is using the situation as an educational opportunity for its student-athletes.

“One of the issues that we constantly face are a lot of times these kids have never been unsupervised before, and suddenly they get in an environment and the first opportunity they are unsupervised it’s an educational opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this is what you do and what you don’t do,'” Fannin said.

“Our goal in athletics, as it is in education, is to get them ready for real life. So, you know, we have to bridge that gap and fill in gaps, and that’s what we’re here for and what our objectives are.”

Stonewall Jackson has just one coaching vacancy remaining after already filling the head varsity boys basketball coaching position as well as four assistant coach spots, Fannin said. The school is seeking a varsity golf coach to replace Roger Wilkins, who resigned at the end of the school year.

Skyline High School has filled its varsity head coach openings for golf (Roy Kelly) and cross country (Rodger Seemiller) as well as four assistant coach positions, according to athletic director Bill Cupp. Cupp estimated the school had another three or four assistant positions left to fill.

Warren County High School athletic director Ed Dike said he has had to fill one varsity head coach position (cheerleading) and has hired five new assistant coaches. Last year, the school hired five new varsity head coaches.

Sherando High School continues its run of coaching stability, as athletic director Jason Barbe said the school’s only coaching vacancy is for varsity track and field, a spot previously held by Tom Grim. Barbe said in an email Tuesday he expects to name a new track coach in the “next week or so.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com