The Sparta School District has formed a committee to study activity programs in the district and why some are successful and others not. The purported mission is to find out what makes for a successful program and how the district can be more supportive and proactive. Now they have an opportunity to show how serious they are. Head wrestling coach Jake Larsen is moving on to another position in Bettendorf, Iowa. How he is replaced will go a long way in showing how committed the district is to having and maintaining quality programs.
Obviously the goal is to hire a quality teacher first. However, a great coach is also going to be a great teacher and Jake Larsen is a good example of that. Consideration should be given to hiring someone that will be a good role model and positive asset to the school and community. Someone that will not only coach wrestling but involve themselves in other activities as well. Coach Lyle Blum, former Spartan head coach and current varsity coach at Onalaska High School, recently stated how his wrestling coach had completely changed his life around. He would not be in education or the parent he is now without having had his wrestling coach as a role model.
There will always be plenty of applicants for teaching positions but few for head coaching positions and even fewer that are qualified. As a district one of the goals should be to hire college experienced student-athletes that have participated at a higher level and can bring fresh ideas, enthusiasm, and new technique to our programs.
Nowadays, you need to get maximum bang for your buck. It is not too much to ask teaching candidates what else they can contribute to the school and district, and if they are not willing to commit to coaching or involve themselves in other activities, they move down the list. Of the 17 head varsity coaching positions in the district, only 4 are filled by district staff members, 9 by non-staff, and 4 are currently or will soon be open. The numbers for non-staff vs. staff among assistant and middle school coaches is about 3-1. This is not the formula for building successful programs. The advantages to having staff vs. non-staff coaches, especially in the head varsity position are numerous. They have experience and training in dealing with students, parents, other coaches and school personnel. They are also able to spend the time needed in the off-season to build their programs and work with their athletes that many non-staff coaches don’t have. It would stand to figure that the more coaches you have wandering the hallways and interacting daily with your kids, the more influence there would be on your child to participate in athletics and more desire to succeed. If you intermingle with people who don’t find it important than it becomes unimportant.
School board members represent the parents and community members in our district. The school board sets the vision and goals for the school district, and holds the administration accountable for results. They determine how administrators should manage their budgets and personnel. If you believe having quality coaches, successful programs and positive role models for our students and athletes is important, then let your school board member know.
Wonderfully said. I have to tell you that I cried when I found out Coach Larsen was leaving. I cried not because I want to impede his personal progress and choices, I wish the very very best for him and his family, but simply because I am a selfish Sparta wrestling mom and understand that coaches/teachers, or even just a plain Good person he is, like him, with the vision he has and the desire to achieve his coaching goals and visions, are not a combination to be easily found. There are other superb teachers who have moved on from our school district, and a big hole was left.
Well said! Losing Jake Larsen as a faculty member and role model for his students and athletes is incredibly sad for the Sparta community. Jake teaches with passion and coaches with passion and chooses to see individual qualities and strengths in his students and wrestlers. He, along with Bill Tourdot, brought great changes to the wrestling program which brought back Spartan pride for the entire community. As a parent of a past Spartan wrestler, I am forever grateful for the guidance and support that was given to our son, He is a better person for having been coached by Jake and Bill. It is commendable that the Sparta School District is finally looking into these programs to find out how to better them. Hopefully this will bring some changes and return spirit and pride to all of our programs. School spirit is slowing fading away in our district and that, to me, is devastating to our schools and community.