Coaching shortfall sends Vikings off track |

Coaching shortfall sends Vikings off track

Matt O'Neill

Two paid coaches for almost 50 athletes is not an ideal athletic learning experience.

Unfortunately for the South Tahoe High track and field team that has been the case this spring.

The amount of volunteer coaches for the program has varied from year to year, but this season only Julie Pope and Rick Brown are at the practices running the whole show.

Last season, there were as many as six coaches helping out with the program with Dominique Westlake being the only paid assistant.

Officially, the coach who has built South Tahoe into a Nevada cross country power, was a paid wrestling assistant for the last three seasons. But with the rise in numbers for the matmen, two coaches were needed this winter and his position was taken from the track and field program.

“The coach-to-athlete ratio we have right now is 25 to 1,” Brown said. “It’s put a big dent in my ability to circulate through the team.

“It also becomes a safety issue, especially with the distance runners because I can’t run with them when they’re training.”

But help may soon be on the way.

In March, South Tahoe High Athletic Administrator Jack Stafford, along with concerned parents, took this issue to the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board and presented his case for an added coach to the spring sport.

“The district is doing the best it can to get track enough coaches for next season,” Stafford said. “We have a very supportive board and superintendent and I’m guardedly optimistic that it will be taken care of.”

While the shortage of coaches will likely be rectified next season, Brown and Pope are left to supervise the large team for the remainder of the season.

Consequently, this leaves some athletes practicing without a coach many times and not learning proper techniques for throwing, jumping or sprinting.

Westlake, for his part, is doing the best he can to assist while coaching the South Tahoe Middle School track team.

“The other day I saw a runner practicing across the track with the wrong technique,” said Westlake, who is volunteering with the high school team after his middle school practices. “I wanted to go correct him, but I had 20 kids of my own that I was working with.”

Everyone is working toward resolving the situation. The presentation by Stafford was received favorably by the school board, but a coach cannot be added until next school year because of budget constraints.

“It is a consideration for next year,” Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn said. “The last few months we’ve gotten requests and letters giving the opinions of many parents.

“They’re understanding that we have to go through our steps before we can add another position.”

Stafford conducted a very involved study before he took his concern to the board. He compared South Tahoe’s situation with other schools in the area and how many coaches other 4A schools have allotted for track and field.

“They took things into consideration like population of interest and the safety of the students and coaches,” Scheerhorn said. “They looked around to see how many coaches other schools have for these sports.”

Reed High School has six paid coaches for their track and field team, and although the Raiders have 120 athletes, when compared to South Tahoe, the Vikings are below that coach-to-athlete ratio.

Stafford feels this problem will soon be a thing of the past.

“We all have the same intentions in mind, the safety of the kids,” he said. “We try to look at the ratio as 20 to 1. This season, we’re stretching a little, but it will be changed next season.”

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