The Division II Legislation Committee used the first day of its November 5-7 meeting to conduct a unique session on work/life balance, convening representatives from each sport’s coaches association to review whether current bylaws provide the balance for student-athletes and coaches that the Division II strategic-positioning platform says they should.
The quickest takeaway from the session was that there are no quick answers, simply because of the challenge to square coaches’ competitive will to win with a reciprocal desire to gain relief from the time demands winning requires.
“It is becoming increasingly more difficult to balance not only the expectation for coaches to lead successful teams but also execute their roles in mentoring and assisting students on their path to graduation — not to mention all of the recruiting demands,” said Division II Vice President Mike Racy. “For student-athletes, the ‘I Chose Division II’ theme relies on an environment that allows them to compete at a high level while focusing on academics and being involved with other parts of the college experience. We’d like coaches to have the same balance.”
Several coaches association reps advocated a few common and relatively simple solutions, such as increasing the dead periods in recruiting, but others said such policy tweaks would be mere gestures in the face of a competitive culture that demands results.
“When I first started talking to coaches about this meeting, they were skeptical instead of excited,” said Carson-Newman College Associate Athletics Director and men’s basketball coach Dale Clayton, who was representing the National Association of Basketball Coaches. “They said, ‘All of this sounds good, but if I don’t win, I’ll get fired.’ ”
That anxiety was reflected in softball, too. Kelley Green, the coach at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania who presented on behalf of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, said 43 percent of coaches her organization surveyed called the profession demanding to the point of a career change. Seventy-two percent said they work more than 55 hours a week during the season, a pace 14 percent said they maintained even in the off-season. On the other hand, 52 percent said they were happy with the balance they already had.
“Coaches expect to work a lot of hours in-season,” Green said. “Assistant coaches feel their head coaches expect them to work long hours, and head coaches believe their ADs expect the same thing.”
U.S. Track Coaches Association Executive Director Sam Seemes agreed that the expectations of others tend to influence a coach’s work/life balance more than the coach does.
Given the unlikely outcome of a voluntary culture change, the group gravitated toward legislative concepts that would help even the scales in a meaningful way.
At least four sports recommended adding dead periods in recruiting, particularly around the winter holiday season. Others recommended tighter evaluation periods at different times of the year. While the dead periods garnered a consensus, other proposals spurred debate.
Jill Schopieray, the women’s volleyball coach at Saint Joseph’s College (Indiana), said the American Volleyball Coaches Association has discussed precluding coaches from working with club athletes — some people believe it gives those coaches an advantage “feeder system” anyway. But others in the room said the club connection is one of the few ways assistant coaches in particular can supplement their salaries.
University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown, wrestling coach Pat Pecora advanced a National Wrestling Coaches Association idea of making wrestling essentially a one-semester sport, starting competition in early January and ending in mid-April. Practice would begin December 1. Pecora cited interest from Divisions I and II coaches on that concept.
Several representatives advocated recruiting calendars, while others thought they were too restrictive. Others want minimum coaching limits based on the number of student-athletes on the squad, though they admit such a mandate would challenge schools with limited resources.
Interestingly, many representatives spoke passionately about changing current skill-instruction limits, apparently unaware that Division II has legislation on the 2008 Convention floor to do just that. The proposal would allow more than one group of student-athletes in sports other than football to participate in skill instruction simultaneously in different locations. The maximum number in those groups would be four in individual sports and in team sports for which the starting squad size is six or fewer, and six for team sports for which the starting squad size is greater than six.
In all, the session produced 65 legislative concepts that the Division II Legislation Committee began sifting through in its two-day meeting afterward. Many were forwarded to the Division II Championships Committee for consideration, while the remainder will be on the Legislation Committee’s next meeting agenda in March 2008. The goal is to prep worthy proposals for either the 2009 or 2010 Convention.
The sooner, the better for the College Swimming Coaches Association of America’s Gary Kinead.
“My wife told me she should have married a surgeon,” he said. “She said they spend as many hours at work as I do and they make four times the money.”