For the love of the game

Published 6:27 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS DOING THEIR PART: All three county football coaching staffs came together last week for two preseason scrimmages

DOING THEIR PART: All three county football coaching staffs came together last week for two preseason scrimmages

High-school sports are an individual town’s extension to the outside world. For residents, it’s a great way to spend a comfortable fall afternoon. For parents, there’s no better feeling than watching a child compete in front of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of fans, depending on the sport. For players, athletics is a way to stay active and involved while representing a school and a community.

When it comes to coaches, the reason for participation is less obvious, something that cannot be described in a single sentence. Yes, each coach in Beaufort County is paid for their services, but it’s an ingrained disposition, dedication and drive buried deep within that has these mentors putting in the extra hours, going above and beyond every day. And most do, in fact, exceed their mandate.

For an educator who coaches a sport, say football, soccer or volleyball, the amount of hours put in on any given day is staggering. From when the alarm goes off at 6 a.m. to the time practice is over, an average day can run 11 or 12 hours. On game days, that number increases to 14 or 15 hours, considering a game that begins at 7 p.m. usually doesn’t finish until well past 9 p.m. When those games are on the road, athletes and coaches usually don’t return home until closer to 11 p.m. or midnight.

But the job doesn’t end there. The most dedicated coaches spend hours on end breaking down game film and preparing for the next opponent by analyzing formations, offensive tendencies and their own players’ skillsets. Other things like offseason camps, seminars and practice sessions chip away at free time.

They put in an exhausting amount of hours because they want to, not because they have to, and the reward is substantial. Sports build student-athletes’ character, preach the value of hard work and provide an emotional outlet. Well-run athletic programs are the formula for bettering a community as a whole.

In Beaufort County, where the average teacher’s salary is a little bit less than $40,000, coaches are paid for their seasonal services with a stipend, a payment that is cut in half and added to two teacher paychecks, meaning the stipend is taxed twice. Coaching experience also commonly factors into the stipend.

Three coaches from three different county public schools, all who coach different sports, were asked to provide their per-season stipend payments. Before taxes, all three fell in the $1030-$1110 range. After the stipend was split and taxed, the total payment resembled something in the range of $600-$650.

During the 2010-2011 athletic season, the average coaching supplement among 83 county positions in the state equated to $938 — only eight other North Carolina counties had a lower average at the time. Judging by the submitted stipend payments, it’s a number that has likely increased over the last four years.

In Greenville County, S.C., a baseball coach with five years of experience makes upwards of $2,900, while a stipend for a football coach with the same amount of experience can creep up into five figures. Those numbers all coincide with things like median household income (Greenville County’s is higher than Beaufort County’s), district size and available budget funds.

Still, it’s not the money that brings coaches to do what they do — countless hours logged at games, on the practice field, in the film room and in the classroom. It’s the feeling they get when a team wins a game, records a winning season, makes the playoffs and represents their respective town with class. Coaching is not a pay-by-the-hour venture.

Local support for middle-school and high-school athletics is crucial to its future. The coaches are certainly doing their part, unselfishly.