Anyone who thinks high school coaches overwork their athletes should see how hard they work themselves.

Almost every coach works two jobs. In addition to spending countless hours pouring over fundamentals, implementing strategy and running drills both before and after the school bells ring, most coaches can be found in the classroom as well.

It makes for extremely long days, even longer weeks and often robs them of at least a portion of their summer vacation.

Time spent with their players is time lost at home with their families. The position often requires them to be out the door before little ones rise in the morning, only to return after they have been tucked in for the night.

Relationships can become strained, as the other half must carry an additional load at home. Luckily, most coaches I’ve encountered quickly admit to having a strong support system, primarily their spouse.

And they need it.

In addition to the hours spent in the classroom or during designated practice sessions and games, coaches have to find time to do things like wash uniforms and towels, drive buses to and from competitions, deal with knucklehead reporters like myself, run open gym sessions, organize tournaments, watch film and conduct offseason camps. Not to mention their everyday duties as a teacher.

Due to their extended time with athletes, they become an additional — or sometimes the sole — parental figure in the child’s life. Almost by default, coaches wear the hats of mentor, confidant, friend, counselor and respected authority figure.

Taking absolutely nothing away from teachers, but they simply cannot build the same relationships with students in the limited time they have together. It is the difference between spending several hours a week with a student versus spending several hours a day with an athlete. It adds up.

I have no personal experience being a coach, but after working closely with many for years now, I see the toll it takes on the body, mind and spirit. The job is demanding, grueling and all too often thankless.

But I also know every coach endures the hardships and the drawbacks because they love what they do. They are passionate about sports and the morals they instill, and, most importantly, they care about kids. In the process, they often build bonds that can last lifetimes.

High school is a unique time in every person’s maturation process. Coaches have tremendous influence over their athletes, and, inadvertently, their actions often deliver resounding statements capable of resonating for decades to come.

So, as this year’s installment of Teacher Appreciate Week draws to a close, I hope every educator has heard the words “Thank You” enough times to feel fulfilled. Teachers hold one of the most important positions in the country and deserve to be praised for all they do.

I also hope coaches are not overlooked in the least. Whether in the classroom, on a field or inside a gymnasium, coaches are teachers too.

I certainly could not do my job without them, and, without doubt, I owe every coach I’ve encountered sincere gratitude.

Contact Clay Whittington at

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