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Public Policy Part 2: Why in the Name of the Good Lord is a High School Coach Not a Paid Position in Canadian Public Schools?

Posted by Emily Beers on


By creating a more efficient education system that allows for fewer teachers and more independent learning for students who excel in that environment, (see Part 1), the savings this would generate should, at least partially, be used to pay high school coaches. Coaches are teachers who volunteer an additional 20 to 30 hours of their time each week. My basketball coaches were the heroes of my high school experience.

While I’ve never been a coach of a high school sport’s team, I was on my high school basketball team for four years. 

Being on that team, a team that qualified to the AAA Provincial Championships all four years I played, was by far the best part of my high school experience. Much of that experience was due to two coaches: Mr. Devlin (Alex Devlin) and Ms. Mac (Sue Macpherson Sands). The opportunities they provided for me, and for that team, is the reason I enjoyed high school.

We were a committed team, so our schedule included two-hour practices, five to six days a week, as well as 40 games a year, including as many as eight weekend tournaments each season. These tournaments often took us out of town, to Victoria or Kelowna, and even to Santa Barbara and San Francisco. 

Bottom line: Coaching us was a full-time job.

At the time, I certainly didn’t appreciate all these two coaches did for us. They did a good job hiding the fact that they were volunteering their time. And although I know they genuinely loved coaching, I didn’t realize until I reached adulthood how devoted they actually were.

 

I mean, I knew I was lucky that Mr. Devlin opened the gym for me every single day all summer long for four years so I could chase my NCAA dream, but I didn’t think about it from his end. He was volunteering his time to open the school and spending his summer vacation year-after-year helping teenagers develop their basketball game. 

Similarly, I still remember that Black Tusk overnight hiking trip that Ms. Mac and her husband at the time, Dave Sands, took us on, as one of the greatest team bonding experiences I’ve ever had.

I didn’t realize at the time that Sue and Dave were giving up their weekend to give their team a chance to bond off the basketball court. I didn’t realize at the time that having to listen to us sing a song we made up—completely off key, for hours on end as we hiked to the top of the Tusk—might have been slightly annoying for them. 

They did these things because they truly cared about us. Yes, they cared about how we did at provincials each year, but more than that, they were invested in seeing us succeed in life after high school.

And on paper at least, it’s safe to say their efforts were worthwhile. When I look at my teammates from the team I was on in Grade 9 and look at what they’re doing today (the ones I know of, that is), it’s a pretty spectacular picture: That 1999 Port Moody Blues team churned out two teachers, a physiotherapist, a lawyer, a dentist, a doctor and not one, but two veterinarians.

Are you kidding me? Two veterinarians, a doctor and a dentist! These are some of the hardest programs to get into in university.

I'm sure every single one of us gives some credit to our high school basketball experience as having helped us achieve the things we have after high school. None of us would be where we are today without teachers like Mr. Devlin and Ms. Mac.

In an ideal world, I believe we would pay teachers based on merit; however, I understand it’s very difficult to rank teachers this way. But it’s pretty easy to see which teachers are going above and beyond their call of duty in the classroom.

Whether they’re coaching the football, tennis or basketball team, or whether they’re putting together the school musical, our education system should be designed to both financially incentivize and reward teachers who pursue these kinds of endeavours. These are the teachers who get it; they’re the ones who know what their efforts will do for the teenagers they’re teaching, both during their high school experience, and well into their futures.

Mr. Devlin and Ms. Mac are the reason I enjoyed high school at all. They’re the reason I was able to get an NCAA basketball scholarship, and eventually win a basketball national championship with UBC, and a rowing national championship with UWO. Their contribution to me, and to my teammates, in those years made a difference in our lives, both then and now. And to think they did this, and continue to do this, from the goodness of their hearts. Nobody should have to be that altruistic.

 

 

 

 

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