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Some battles are better left behind the scenes

Back in the stone age of the 1980s, I worked as a teacher and coach in a school where the principal had a great disdain for coaches. For whatever reason, he considered coaches to be stupid and just an evil of the education business. He made no secret of it.

Former Valdosta High football coach, the late Nick Hyder, was invited by our athletic director to speak at our athletic awards banquet one year. Coach Hyder was very well thought of throughout the state and an excellent motivational speaker. When Coach Hyder arrived for the program, I almost passed out when he was introduced to our principal. Our principal wisecracked directly to Coach Hyder, "my father was going to be a coach but he wasn't dumb enough."

That shocking comment is benign compared to a quote I read in last Friday's Augusta Chronicle. Sports Writer Jeff Sentell wrote an article on high school football coaching vacancies in the area. Among the openings is the job at Warren County High School. Former Wrens and Jefferson County Coach Charles Rutland served as the interim coach during Warren County's 8-4 season in 2005, their best since 1989.

Warren County School Superintendent Carole Jean Carey made the quote that blew me away. In reference to Coach Rutland she said, "He did a fine job last year, but we also had a great team. I don't mean it as a slam, but my grandmother could have coached us to the playoffs last year."

Wooooooo, baby! My grandmother?!

There are two major issues that I personally have with that statement. Number one is the statement itself. What exactly did Mrs. Carey mean? Was she saying what many sports fans have said about other good teams over the years? Did she literally mean that the team had so many good players that their success was guaranteed? If that's the case, then the 2002 Thomson Bulldogs could have won the state championship with somebody's grandmother as coach. Many of those players are now playing in college. Does anybody seriously believe that group still didn't need a good coach to prepare them for games? I don't think so.

Was Mrs. Carey taking a swipe at Coach Rutland? She qualified her statement by saying that she didn't mean it as a slam. If she didn't mean it as a slam, maybe she should have rephrased her words. Not only did it sound like a slam, but also she said it to the only major newspaper read on a daily basis in this part of Georgia and much of South Carolina.

My second issue is, it is very unprofessional for a school superintendent to say anything that could be construed as negative about any employee. Coaches do function in a greater spotlight than most school employees and are used to criticism. Even though Coach Rutland was working on an interim basis, Mrs. Carey leads readers to believe there must be some conflict between the two. Should that be expressed in the newspaper? If there is no conflict then readers like me have been led to believe otherwise.

Those comments also make me wonder how many good candidates will be knocking on Mrs. Carey's door to apply for that job. I'm sure there will be hundreds of applicants, there always is. I just wonder how many potential candidates, maybe even the one that is hired, will wonder when the boss might openly diss them.

I am not privy to what goes on in the Warren County school system. I am an advocate for coaches, and I always will be. I see no point in a person of authority making even a simple wisecrack about their coach in the newspaper or other public forum. Coaching is not the easy job that it might look like from the sidelines, regardless of how good the players are. Of all people, a school superintendent should recognize that.

Leading a football team is like leading an entire school system, just on a smaller level. I have read and heard that the Warren County school system has made great academic strides under Mrs. Carey's leadership. It wouldn't really be fair if members of the Warren County school board said, "our grandmothers could have done it."

Web posted on Wednesday, January 11, 2006


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