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Coaches will soon need to be certified

Prep Notebook

Ever since Vince Lombardi borrowed the phrase Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing from John Wayne, it's been an American axiom.

It might make sense in the world of professional sports, where athletes are paid unfathomable sums and coaches have a single mandate -- win championships.

But the aims of pro sports are often dissimilar with those of high school athletics, where the express purpose is participation.

Obviously, every coach and athlete who competes wants to win or succeed in some fashion. Why else have competition?

But along the way, enough people have lost sight of what high school athletics are about that national and state governing bodies have taken steps to refocus attention on the right goals.

The Oregon School Activities Association delegate assembly last month adopted a rule requiring all coaches to go through an eight-hour certification program to raise the quality of the sports experience, effective in the fall of 2001.

You don't have teachers in class that aren't certified, says former Ashland High boys basketball coach Jerry Hauck. How's coaching any different?

Hauck began pushing for adoption of the certification program when he was chairman of the National High School Coaches Association's basketball committee from 1989-93. The new rule will apply to all coaches, although someone will be able to work with a certified coach for a single season without certification.

Hauck says 50 percent of the state's coaches now come from off campus.

While the off-campus coaches may know Xs and Os, they might not have a clear understanding of how sports fit into the educational scheme.

With the time involved and pressure involved, more and more, we felt we needed training for these people, Hauck says. Everything from psychological to physiological to how to organize a practice schedule.

The real battle is how you come off the street and coach. The skills expertise may be there, but no background handling individuals.

The fisticuffs between a pair of walk-on baseball coaches at Rogue River in March is a case in point. Both coaches knew something about baseball, but knowing how to deal with the tensions of the job was apparently another matter.

That's an extreme example, but an example of what will happen when you have people who haven't had training, says Hauck. The real emphasis (of training) is on communication. How to deal with staff and parents.

To that end, the National Federation of Interscholastic Coaches Association's American Sports Education Program gives coaches a chance to develop or refresh their perspectives.

Hauck is one of 80 trainers in Oregon and has been working with the program for five years. He says veteran coaches sometimes grumble about the clinic, but find it enlightening.

Yes, winning is important -- that's why you compete, Hauck says. But it's not the only reason there. It's still a school situation and you want it to be a positive situation.

A couple of my best years coaching we won nine or 10 games. But the kids played so hard that they felt good. There are things we strive for. At the end, we made progress and had success.

Crater athletic director Dan Speasl will follow in Hauck's footsteps and test to become a certification trainer next month in Keizer.

Speasl's greatest desire for certification is that it will enhance sportsmanship.

He points to a recent bill introduced in the Oregon Senate that would cost offenders a $1,000 civil penalty if they harassed sports officials.

Why are they making laws like that? Speasl asks rhetorically. The reason is they need officials and coaches out there for kids. It's just a game. We're supposed to be having fun.

Speasl hopes the certification course will put off-campus coaches on the same page with teachers and administrators.

If you're not around the daily operation, you don't know what goes on, Speasl says. It doesn't make them bad. But they need an in-service period where they can find out what they can and can't do: when they can get kids out of class, bus schedules ...

They need to know regulations and rules so they don't get into tight spots that you have to answer for.

ABOUT THOSE 40S -- The National Football Report, a clearinghouse for college recruiting based in Kansas City, Mo., is making a push to standardize 40-yard dash times.

Those dash times play a big part in whether major programs give a first or second look at high school athletes.

NFR suggests that times be reported with an E after them if they are performed on outdoor tracks with running shoes and electronic timing.

For hand times, three stopwatches should be used and the average time submitted. Such times should be followed with an H.

Finally, the 40 should be run three times, using the fastest mark if electronically timed or the fastest average if hand-timed.

(Greg Stiles is Mail Tribune sports writer. He can be reached at 776-4483.)