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REGGIE HAYES: High school football coaching survey reveals Fort Wayne area’s most challenging jobs

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  • March 9, 2018
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REGGIE HAYES: High school football coaching survey reveals Fort Wayne area’s most challenging jobs


High School Sports

Mar 9, 2018

Reggie Hayes

South Side coach Roosevelt Norfleet oversees as his team huddles during a 2017 scrimmage with Wayne. (File photo by news-sentinel.com)

South Side coach Roosevelt Norfleet oversees as his team huddles during a 2017 scrimmage with Wayne. (File photo by news-sentinel.com)

The best high school football head coaching jobs come open rarely. The most challenging jobs? That’s another story.

A challenging job often comes with lesser facilities, lesser financing, less interest from players and the student body and a much smaller margin of error on Friday nights.

The most-challenging jobs, like the most attractive, don’t come in cookie cutter form. A large school, such as Northrop, can be as challenging as a small one, such as Prairie Heights.

News-Sentinel.com found 21 area coaches willing to take part in an anonymous survey about the most attractive and most challenging football coaching jobs in the Fort Wayne area.

RELATED STORY: High school football coaching survey reveals Fort Wayne area’s most attractive jobs

Prairie Heights, one of the schools listed as the most challenging, has had seven head coaches in the last 15 years. Most of those considered most challenging have had at least four coaches over that time span. By contrast, Bishop Dwenger and New Haven had only one coach over those 15 years (plus one interim at Dwenger due to health reasons) and Snider had two.

The coaches surveyed chose 11 schools as candidates for most challenging jobs. Included among those are Fort Wayne Community Schools other than Snider (South Side, North Side, Northrop, Wayne), but also schools with otherwise strong athletic programs, such as Norwell and Bellmont.

The school with the most votes for most challenging was South Side.




“South Side has a great history, but today their enrollment appears to continue to fall as families move out to suburban areas,” one coach said. “With decreasing enrollment comes a natural decrease in athletic participation. All the while, they have to compete in one of the most difficult conferences in the Fort Wayne area.”

South Side has had success over the years, although its last sectional championship came in 2005. The Archers have won more games (68) over the last 15 years than fellow SAC schools North Side (65), Wayne (50) and Northrop (43). But South coach Roosevelt Norfleet has found it difficult to draw large numbers of players out for the team. Where Snider usually has players who play on offense or defense, with a few going both ways, the opposite is true at South.

Similar problems exist at North Side, which had the second-most votes as appearing to be the most challenging job.

Many coaches pointed out the perceived difficulty for FWCS programs other than Snider. Some players who would traditionally attend South Side, North Side, Northrop and Wayne often opt for Snider or one of the parochial schools (Bishop Dwenger, Bishop Luers and Concordia Lutheran).

“The schedule is a grind and it’s a challenge to keep kids from getting discouraged and to get them to believe they can compete with the big dogs of the conference,” one coach said. “Some kids have challenging home situations, as well. School and/or football is not always the top priority in their lives. They have other things, justifiably, more important than football to worry about.”

Snider’s success has led to a strong booster program and community support that has been difficult for the other FWCS football programs to match. All have had their moments of success on the field, but sustaining it is a problem.

A lot of turnover in the head coaching position makes it difficult too. Over the past 15 years, South had had four coaches, North four coaches, Northrop five coaches and Wayne six coaches.

The coaches who take over these programs are often driven and energetic, full of football knowledge. But the building process for those programs is an incredible uphill climb.

“A place like Northrop would be very tempting because of the athletes, but you have to invest your life constantly recruiting them (to stay at Northrop),” one coach said. “I don’t know if (the administration) feels football is important.”

Several of the other schools considered challenging were due to low enrollment, school size, size of assistant coaching staff and overall compensation for coaching. Southern Wells, for example, “is a small school like Adams Central, but I don’t think it has the same resources,” a coach said.

Norwell has “a lack of quality coaches and too many kids who specialize in a sport other than football,” a coach said.

Bellmont’s “teaching pay is some of the lowest of any school around, which means coaching pay is the lowest around, as well. The facilities are not the best and need a lot of work,” one coach said.

Even the best programs have their skeptics. One coach listed Bishop Dwenger – which tied with Snider for most attractive coaching job – as a candidate for most challenging.

Dwenger has “very great support and lots of talent, but potentially too much parental influence from CYO on up,” a coach said.

Those who coach or have coached at one of the perceived-to-be challenging schools said it is always within a coach’s ability to find a way to turn losing, or less successful, programs around.

“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” the coach said. “You have to have faith that the situation you walk into will be turned around.”

Before I close, I should clarify: All high school football coaching jobs are challenging. But some mountains of challenge are much steeper than others.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

The coaches’ last words

Reasons why an open head coaching job would be attractive:

“It’s very important to have support from administrators at the school to make sure you can hold players to a high level in and out of school. Also, having parents who are willing to help out with boosters and get involved just makes the kids’ experience a better one.”

“Teaching situation and number of paid assistant coaching positions.”

“Tradition/success is a key factor when thinking about an attractive coaching position.”

“The commitment level and ‘coachability’ of the kids.”

“Everyone is on the same page. Establishing a football program/culture is much harder than establishing one in another sport (basketball) because you need so many people pulling in the same direction.”

Reasons why you would be reluctant to take a specific head coaching job:

“The leadership of the school is focused only on wins and losses and not on the very important role athletics can play in the development of the whole person.”

“The community doesn’t feel like a fit.”

“If I had factual evidence there was limited administrative support for the football program and athletics were not a priority, then I would have hesitation.”

“Non-supportive administration and ‘buttinsky’ parent involvement.”

“Worry about why the job is open, why the previous coach left. Was the previous coach forced out for factors that might cause some concern?”

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