While the six-figure salaries and monster stipends of head high school football coaches in states like Georgia and Texas make for some intriguing headlines, the majority of high school football coaches are getting much more modest stipends, at best. That minimal stipend includes coaches in football-crazy states Florida, California, and Ohio too.
That brings to me Bill Vonada’s explanation on why he recently decided to step away from the sidelines at Hernando HS (FL). According to Vonada the demads of coaching, coupled with the need and cost of winning, and the dwindling resources he feels that coaches are getting led him to the decision to resign and make his feelings known.
The letter he wrote, courtesy of HernandoSport.com, lays out his thought process after coaching at the school the past four seasons, along with 15 years as a head coach at another local program.
“I have recently realized that I am either too old or too young to just play games when it comes to coaching. In other words, high school athletics for me is not just about passing time or doing something for amusement. There are two parts to this thought process:
If we are keeping score, we are playing to win.
It has to be about something more than the score and trophy.
Coaching for me has usually included something more: Core values and priorities. I have found that this has made me a better person, as it has caused me to continually examine and improve my own core values and priorities, so that I might be a more effective coach and teacher. In the realm of high school football, both the need and the cost of winning has never been higher:
NEED—Sports are so much more visible than they used to be; patience is much less existent. Players, parents, and communities all want a winner, as it is sure to propel them onto bigger and better things. A coach can be a sensation one year, on “the hot seat” the next, and can be the hottest commodity around after that. It’s all part of the deal when you are cashing in the big-time paycheck of coaching (high school coaches who read this are laughing loudly now).
COST—The arms race is not just limited to powerful countries, but has developed its own niche in football. Teams are constantly searching for the new product, scheme, or activity that will put them over the top. More and more resources (time and money) are used to take a program to the next level. Improvement must be constant; if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. The increased cost of football means a couple of things:
If a team is going to be competitive, they have to be willing to pay the price. If they want to be champions, they have to go above-and-beyond the average. There is no way around this—the price for victory must paid or it cannot be obtained. If parts of the program are not willing to ante up their share, others must pay more from their resources. The demands of the job are growing—not only in the area of “what it takes to win”, but also in what is expected of the coach. He is expected to not only win, but also: to get his players to college; solve all problems associated with members of the program (“Your star can’t remember to bring a pencil to class and drives too fast in the parking lot; what are you going to do about it?”); and, to be on call most hours of the day.
The hindrances for coaching are growing. Things like increased paperwork requirements (currently 7 different forms for every player) combined with lack of access to facilities make the job harder. The demands of the job are growing; the hindrances to the job are growing; the resources are not. I find myself lacking resources. My choices then become to change the priorities of the program (character development and winning), change my values and priorities in order to make up the difference, or change the leadership of the program.
I find that I can no longer be the type of person I want to be and still run the type of program I want to run in the current environment. It is for these reasons that I have decided to tender my resignation as Head Football Coach of Hernando High School. I have enjoyed the experience of working with some excellent people while here, and thank you for the opportunity to do so. I wish you continued good fortune with both the success of your program and in the development of the young men of character that our world so desperately needs.”
Head here to read more, including some thoughts from coaches, the athletic director, and others on what Vonada’s letter.