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JUJ SAYS: Tough choices face coaches

JOHN JACKSON

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John Antonio’s dilemma with the St. Vincent High School football coaching job is an all too common one for coaches in general and off-campus coaches in particular.

Antonio would have been a perfect fit for St. Vincent. He is a well-respected member of the community; knows Redwood Empire football on all levels; and is a proven fine coach. He would have been ideal as the school seeks to upgrade the program.

“Would have been” because he backed away last week.

The job would have been daunting. The Mustangs have won just three games in the last two seasons, and none of the wins have come against North Central League I teams. The new school administration, led by Principal Patrick Daly, wants to upgrade the program to be on a North Bay League level.

If anyone could accomplish the monumental task, it would have been Antonio. There is only one little problem. He has a life. A Petaluma police officer, he has a family with a young son he wants to help as he enjoys his own athletic career that right now is at the youth football stage. Antonio has duties and responsibilities that are more important than football.

Coaching any high school sport is a difficult, time-consuming job. That is especially true for football. It really is a way of life and demands sacrifices not only from the coaches, but also their families, and any coach will tell you that the compensation is not even a break-even proposition.

It is even more difficult now with ever-changing rules, more to know about health and safety, more training classes to attend and more bureaucracy than ever.

All of these things are magnified for off-campus coaches. Coaches who teach at least have contact with the players on a day-to-day basis off the field. They can track things like academic performance on a personal level and not from just looking at a paper evaluation. In essence, coaching is part of their teaching job.

Paul Maytorena, when he stepped down as one of the most successful baseball coaches ever in the Redwood Empire, asked for acknowledgement for all off-campus coaches. Even Maytorena finally had to give up coaching to better support his family.

The problem is that more qualified coaches are needed than there are school employees to meet the needs.

I’ve asked many coaches why they take on what can be a thankless job that requires sacrifice and few tangible rewards.

Without exception, there are two answers. They tell me it is either for the love of the game or a desire to help young players enjoy the same experiences they had playing the game. It is really one answer.

Some people are better at teaching, better at communicating and better at understanding than others. Some coaches are better than others.

Unfortunately, too many good coaches have to make a choice between family and coaching. It is a tough decision, but in the end, there is only one right answer.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)