R-C Sports Notebook: It’s continuity that breeds success
December 19, 2006
It’s come to our attention over the past few weeks that there is a group of parents rallying to supplant a head coach at Douglas High School.
For now, it matters not much as to who it is, or for which sport.
This is the same story that repeats itself at least once every year in Carson Valley.
Whatever the reason, folks around here have become accustomed to the idea that whoever is coaching whatever sport their child is playing, is generally inept and sometimes out to get their child specifically.
This comes in an athletic program that has in the last four years only missed the playoffs once in one major sport, has won one regional championship, played for two state championships, produced eight league champions, seven regional runners-up and seven league runners-up.
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During that span, coaches from around the Northern 4A region have recognized Douglas coaches with “Coach of the Year” accolades six times in five of the eight major sports.
Of those, five coaches are at the high school presently.
Through the fall sports season, Douglas ranks 11th out of the 45 large schools in the state (seventh in the Northern 4A) in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s Award of Excellence standings – which rates athletic programs based on academic, athletic and citizenship scores in all sports.
The most recent coach to come under fire has produced two winning seasons, two playoff appearances and lost only two games at home.
And yet, it would seem that as a community we have become spoiled by past success.
In three separate sports over the past few months, I have heard complaints about once-proud programs being “ruined” by first- or second-year coaches.
Quite simply, expecting instant success on the playing field in the first year of a coach’s tenure is a little unreasonable, to say nothing of the idea that it is entirely missing the point of student athletics.
The athletic department at Douglas is regularly faced with the challenge of hiring talented and knowledgeable coaches from a limited interest pool.
In order to take the reigns of a varsity sport in Carson Valley, applicants learn quickly that they’d better have a thick skin, a knack for diplomacy, the ability to learn quickly from mistakes and the savvy and drive to put a successful product on the field in order to last for any length of time around here.
What we’ve been seeing over the past few years is that generally, the parents at the school aren’t willing to let a coach get their feet under them.
Generally speaking, for a successful program ” year in and year out, on and off the field ” to be established at Douglas, a coach needs about four years to get things rolling.
Using for example Douglas’ current longest-tenured coaches, Mike Rippee (football) and Werner Christen (girls’ basketball), it is quickly noted that both had to take their lumps as coaches early on before figuring out a solid formula.
Rippee had his first winning season four years into his head coaching career and didn’t make the playoffs until his 12th season. In the 11 years since that first playoff berth, Douglas has missed the postseason just twice, has won two league titles and played in the regional championship once.
During that period, he’s been named the region’s coach of the year twice.
Christen was an assistant at the high school in various sports for nearly 12 years before taking over at the helm of the girls’ basketball program.
Thirty-eight of his 92 career losses (41 percent) came in his first three seasons as a head coach. The next year the Tigers won the regional championship and advanced to the state title game.
His teams have lost an average of only nine games a season and have not missed the regional playoffs since.
The more longevity a coach has, the more success the team will have.
There are the extraordinary cases of softball and volleyball at Douglas, where both programs have been wildly successful despite a coaching carousel that has turned on an average of once a year for the last decade.
While the teams have been successful, the coaching seats have become increasingly volatile and unattractive to new coaches who are expected to perform to past achievements despite not being able to set up any continuous offseason development program, to say the least of extending connections into the local youth sports community.
We need to be giving our coaches more of a chance than just expecting success in one or two years.
Every time a coach has to leave because it’s just not worth putting up with the resistance, it’s just one more thing to make coaching around here that less attractive to anyone who might be interested.
If we’re not careful, it may be us ” the general public ” that ends up ruining a once proud athletic tradition.
To see the crowd at the Galena High School gym for the showcase round of the George Maldonado Memorial Classic Wednesday night, it would seem that plenty from around the region were interested to see how Douglas and Galena would stack up against two of the nation’s top teams in Arlington Country Day (Fla.) and Artesia (Calif.).
On the first night, the two national powers lived up to their billing, putting up plenty of offensive fireworks on display for the capacity crowd.
But the funny thing was, both Douglas and Galena stayed within respectable distance of both teams early on although each ended up losing by more than 20 points.
Most notably on the first night, was Douglas 6-10 standout center Keith Olson’s performance against No. 10 Arlington Country Day. Olson was solid defensively and on the board while scoring 23 points.
On Friday, against No. 2 Artesia, Douglas led through the first part of the first quarter and trailed by only seven at halftime.
Artesia ended up pulling away late, but Douglas managed to keep it within 21 points.
Later in the tournament, Galena upset Arlington Country Day.
Douglas’ guards, Mike Gransbery and James McLaughlin, were solid in the two games.
In the tournament’s final two games, Douglas faded as it was visibly tired from the first two. Still, the Tigers showed flashes of brilliance and should be among the region’s top teams as the season progresses.
Olson and Garrett Hekhuis, jr., wrestling. Olson was strong in each of the tournament’s four games and showed he can do quite well against Division I talent on consistent basis, which should make his future coaches at Northern Arizona happy.
Hekhuis won the 112-pound weight class at the Lowry Invitational over the weekend.
Also considered this week were Sean Molina (wrestling), Mike Gransbery (basketball), Jeff Nady (basketball) and Ryan Pruitt (wrestling).