Let Them Coach - 27 East


Let Them Coach

authorStaff Writer on Apr 1, 2020

Keeping kids safe during the pandemic, even as in-school instruction steadily returns and spring brings sports back to life, is a difficult line to walk for any school district. In general, the region’s districts have done a remarkable job of it, and erring on the side of caution is an understandable position.

But coaches in Westhampton Beach make a convincing argument that the School Board should reconsider a ban on volunteer coaches: It was enacted for all the right reasons, but easing it now could be a reasonable step that pays dividends well beyond any risks.

Varsity boys lacrosse coach Drew Peters wrote a letter to the School Board on behalf of the Westhampton Beach Coaches Association, making the case for the volunteers, who are essential to the district’s athletic programs, providing specialized coaching and contributing in so many other ways. “Whether it’s practice planning, game planning, in-game adjustments, during film sessions or overall player development, having another highly qualified coach can make all the difference,” Mr. Peters said. Varsity football coach Bryan Schaumloffel told the board, “Our volunteer coaches are important to us, and, more importantly, they are important to our kids.”

But baseball coach Asa Grunewald made the most compelling case. Speaking of volunteer assistant coach Dan Pulick, he told the board, “This guy has improved the lives of all our players. They’ve been positively impacted by him.”

And that’s key. Athletics are part of the educational program, part of developing young teenagers into healthy young adults with character. If there’s general agreement that high school sports are valuable enough to risk in the midst of a battle with COVID-19, it should be noted that volunteer coaches are an integral part of that effort, and have been for years, in the case of seniors. Without them, the student-athletes are being ill-served.

Generally, the return of spring sports has been done with care, and there has been little evidence that it’s unsafe. Coaches are part of that equation, but with the basic protections in place — masks, and social distancing when possible — there’s no reason to think a volunteer coach is a danger to a student. And the cost of not having those coaches interacting with students, especially seniors in their final season, should not be understated.

The discussions must continue about how to safely reopen schools, along with every other part of “normal life,” and there’s good reason to be cautious. But in this instance, we agree with Westhampton Beach’s coaches: Let the volunteers take the field.