The Power of Change: KO’s New Reduced Faculty Sports Requirement and its Benefits to the Teaching Staff

Investigative

At most independent schools across the country, teaching comes with the added responsibility of coaching one of the school’s various athletic teams. Throughout the years, this requirement has continued to be enforced to promote active participation from its faculty. This past year, however, the coaching requirement for full-time teachers at KO has undergone a significant change. 

In previous years, KO has followed a 4-2-1 model for all full-time teaching faculty. In simple terms, full-time teachers at KO were required to teach at least four classes, coach two seasons of sports, and advise one group of students. 

After long deliberation from a select group of administration and faculty, KO has transitioned this school year to a 4-1-1 model. This new model still requires full-time teachers to teach four classes and be an advisor, although now teachers only have to coach one sports team or the equivalent. The altered model not only allows teachers to have more free time but also alleviates the stress that comes with coaching responsibilities. Teachers who decide to coach an additional season of sports or are the head coach of their respective sports get compensated accordingly. It additionally protects against potential teacher burnout, something that is especially common, after the prolonged effects of the pandemic. 

English teacher William Martino has been a treasured member of the KO community since his arrival four years ago. Since then, he has worked in various coaching positions. He has served as the assistant JV volleyball coach, as well as the head coach for the boy’s swimming and diving team. Despite Mr. Martino’s love of the sport and coaching, the swim season consumed a significant amount of his spare time. Practices ran for two hours every day, they were always off campus due to KO’s lack of a swimming pool, and meets lasted for three hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. 

Due to the new reduced coaching requirement at KO, Mr. Martino will be able to step away from his role as a swimming and diving coach to dedicate more time to his personal life. As a father of four young children with busy schedules themselves, dedicating hours of his time to coaching was inconvenient. He still has a deep love for the sport, as he has coached for over 10 years. “For me, it [coaching] was an invaluable experience,” he said. “So, I am going to miss that. It was a really hard decision, but I decided to step away because I need more time with my family.”

If teachers’ busy personal schedules make it difficult to commit to the responsibility of coaching, alternatively they can serve as faculty advisors for a major club on campus. For example, being the faculty advisor for the KO News, Student Government Association (SGA), or Forensic Union fulfills the coaching requirement in the 4-1-1 model. 

This year, Mr. Martino is instead working as a faculty advisor to SGA, to fulfill the coaching requirement. “I feel like advising SGA is going to allow me to maintain and foster solid relationships with students, and still be like a presence among them outside of the classroom,” he said. 

Similar to Mr. Martino, history teacher Gene Cassidy has made changes to his schedule to allow more free time. During Dr. Cassidy’s first year at KO, which happened to be last year, he served as the assistant coach for the JV volleyball team and head coach for the JV girls’ tennis team. 

Dr. Cassidy has decided to only serve as the Head Coach for the JV girls’ tennis team and step away from coaching volleyball due to family obligations. “My daughter dances in the Nutcracker with her company and so fall is a crazy time so my ability to be able to be there [for my family] is a huge help for my wife and just generally overall,” Dr. Cassidy said.

Although the change in the coaching requirement for faculty this year has been a huge improvement for some teachers, for others, their lives have not changed much. One such individual is history teacher Tricia Watson who decided to still coach girl’s cross country and girl’s track and field. For teachers like Ms. Watson who coach two sports, the school provides them with a stipend for the additional activity. For Ms. Watson, this is not what motivated her to remain a coach for two teams. “It’s about learning who I am as a person and learning from others and so while the compensation is nice, it’s still what I consider a full part of my job,” Ms. Watson said. 

Not only does the updated coaching requirement at KO affect the faculty, but it impacts the student-athletes as well. For instance, since more teachers are stepping down from coaching positions, there is an increased need for coaches. These spots are now often filled by non-faculty members, which has posed some concern for students. 

Although outside coaches generally may have more experience in coaching a specific sport, they do not see the academic side of a student athlete’s life as much as a KO teacher would. “The only thing that is a challenge is when academics becomes an issue and those outside coaches need help on how to communicate with advisors and really know what our role is,” Ms. Watson said. “Academics come first.”

Moreover, for some student-athletes, this new requirement also affects their established relationships with their coaches. “Several members of the volleyball team have come up to me expressing their displeasure that I am not coaching,” said Dr. Cassidy. These relationships may still be able to prosper as faculty members remain on campus to teach their sections of classes and advise students. 

In the past, some teachers agreed to coach a sport with which they had no prior experience. Although many teachers can readily adapt to a new sport they are coaching, having an inexperienced coach can have a negative impact on student-athletes. This can lead to feelings of resentment from athletes. Prior to the sports change, these effects were not fully considered. With this new requirement, teachers are more likely to be able to make a choice on which sport they coach, however, there are still teachers who are placed in a sport without prior experience. 

Despite the negative aspects of having an inexperienced coach, what truly matters is having an approachable coach who prioritizes the well-being of student-athletes. “You [coaches] also need to manage, be responsible, keep them [the athletes] safe, and commit to our [KO’s core] values,” Ms. Watson said. 

The transition from the 4-2-1 model to the 4-1-1 model, so far, has been smooth and one that the teachers greatly approve of and appreciate. Athletic director Josh Balabuch acknowledges the decisions that went into this alteration and believes it opens up opportunities for the teachers and faculty. “We wanted to provide teachers with more options and create a more equitable environment for all,” he said. “It actually allows for more teachers to be involved in coaching teams and activities, as well as get involved with more clubs on campus.”

According to Mr. Balabuch, all the feedback he has received from faculty regarding the changes to the coaching requirement has been positive. Teachers are able to manage their schedules better and approve of the strides that KO has made to better support its faculty. “I think it [the updated coaching requirement] speaks volumes to KO’s approach towards its faculty that they are willing to spend their resources in a way that allows faculty to focus more on fewer things,” said Dr. Cassidy. 

In its entirety, the changes to the sports requirement have been positively received by the faculty. It allows each teacher to make individual choices in how to spend their time as well as consider the implications it will have on their personal lives. Although it has a few effects on the student community, this will allow most teachers to spend more time focusing on their classes and personal lives, thus creating a more equitable and cohesive community. 

KO teachers are dedicated to academic excellence and, more importantly, enjoy being an impactful presence to students. This new sports requirement has bettered the community, as well as showcased KO’s adaptability. Therefore, time will tell if the direct changes that KO is making ensure the continued success of each student-athlete, teacher, and coach on campus.